Throwback Thursday to When We Were Gaslit About Bigotry

Has it only been four months since Bernie Sanders said this at an Our Revolution rally:
"Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and just deplorable folks. I don't agree. I don't agree, 'cause I've been there. Let me tell you something else some of you may not agree with, and that is: It wasn't that Donald Trump won the election; it was that the Democratic Party lost the election!"
In light of the white supremacists decked out in Trump cosplay who marched in Charlottesville this past weekend, I'd like to revisit Sanders' claim.

Back in April, in response to Sanders' statement, I wrote:
"I cannot reconcile the terror I feel about what Trump is inflicting on us—with the support of his voters standing behind him—and the fact that Bernie Sanders is touted by his followers as the only true progressive in US politics while he acts so thoroughly dismissive of the bigotry Trump has stoked, provoked, and wielded during the course of his Electoral College win.

We survive and resist, I contend, not through a craven, dignity-destroying, white-man-centered capitulation to a mythical narrative wherein Trump supporters are something other than what they have shown us to be, but rather by speaking the words that our lived experiences have shown us to be true."
At this point, I want to emphasize that revisiting his statement isn't meant as point-scoring against Sanders. It never was. The fear of white supremacist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, transphobic, disablist Neo-Nazis marching in the streets, if you can believe it, isn't for many people an abstract debating exercise where we're looking to rack up points against politicians. It's about a visceral fear. Namely, seeing the hatred that Trump inspires in people and then watching "the most popular politician in America"  tell masses of people that this hatred doesn't exist.

Some people may also be inclined to point out that Sanders is Jewish. Yes, he is. And he is not obliged by his identity to resist Trump in any particular way. My only request of the Senator is that he not audit my resistance or experiences with bigotry and publicly declare that this bigotry doesn't exist (until he's ready to make the same proclamations).

Flash forward to August 2017 and Sanders appears ready. Or, readier. After Charlottesville, he rightly acknowledged the racism on display and Trump's atrocious failure to condemn it. For instance, on August 12, he tweeted:

[Text: "No, Mr. President. This is a provocative effort by Neo-Nazis to foment racism and hatred and create violence. Call it out for what it is."]

Good. Any politician right now who does not condemn both Neo-Nazis and Trump is displaying a profound moral failure.

Yet, I juxtapose Sanders' two comments, that Trump supporters aren't bigoted and his more recent naming of bigotry, because it has been immensely frustrating to watch some people, Sanders included, just now publicly acknowledge it after having gaslit us about it to score points against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
The frustration lies not in the fact that people — white men, especially — now seem to understand that bigotry in the US is much deeper and more widespread than they initially believed — that dawning realization is a good thing. Rather, the frustration is that people have been sounding the alarm bells about the gravity of our political situation for at least the past year. And, we could be living a different political reality if the women, people of color, and particularly women of color who were raising these concerns back then had been taken seriously.

But, this is how it so often goes, right? White guys with huge platforms swoop in as big heroes, not for listening to women/people of color who've been saying this stuff for years, but for acknowledging the bigotry only when the bigotry is so obvious it can no longer in good faith be denied by any reasonable person.

One sample out of bazillions:

[Description: Washington Post ran a profile on a University of Virginia op-ed writer who, before Charlottesville, wrote that the city should "let the alt-right rally occur." The writer changed his mind after the rally. Melissa tweeted, in response: "This dude's realization he was wrong about the alt-right is published by NYT, but people who have long been right??? Always w/ the 'learn from privileged people who got it wrong' rather than the LISTEN TO MARGINALIZED PEOPLE WHO GET IT RIGHT FROM GO."]

As Melissa wrote earlier this week, in light of the reality that Hillary Clinton herself warned us a year ago that Trump was running on a campaign centering white nationalism, what we are experiencing is "a catastrophic failure to listen to women."

Yes, we are. And going forward, what is the lesson? How do we move on? As those across the political spectrum bemoan political "bubbles," never forget that the biggest bubble of all is the white-male-discourse bubble of political punditry that so often tasks women/people of color with the emotional labor of understanding and listening to white men, but never the reverse. So, I ask, what are white men in the media and political elite going to do differently?

Even as many of them have been stunned by Trump's rise and the spate of hate he's provoked, they've certainly offered no shortage of opinions on what marginalized people ought to be feeling, thinking, or doing in response to the Trump Administration, as they've told us to ditch identity politics, not call people bigots, have empathy for Trump supporters, and ignore/be mean to Chelsea Clinton.

To what extent will popular white male politicians and pundits use their platforms to acknowledge that the conversations about bigotry pre-date their entry into them, and further, that these conversations have been had for a long time without them, because they simply chose not to listen? And, to what extent will they choose to listen, from now on?

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