One of the saddest aspects of the current era is the rolling-back of real progress in racial relations. James Bouie begins with the line from the inauguration, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” and reads it not as a commitment to economic populism but as a statement of racial solidarity.
Far from acting as a president for all Americans, he’s governed explicitly as a president for white Americans and the racial reactionaries among them. He’s spoken to their fear and fanned their anger, making his office a rallying point for those who see decline in multiracial democracy and his administration a tool for those who would turn the clock back on racial progress. If those Americans are the “forgotten men and women” of President Trump’s inaugural address, then he’s been a man of his word. That simmering pursuit of racial grievance has been its defining characteristic and threatens to be its most enduring achievement.
It is the politics of white resentment, and to overturn it is not a matter of policy proper but something else.
The resistance to Trump’s brand of politics cannot just be resistance to the president himself and the Republican majorities that enable him and his administration. It must also be a resistance to the habits of mind—and material realities—that produced the situation the country finds itself in.
Habits of mind, however, are not simply if ever, the product of schools, but arise from deeper, religious roots. To repair and heal, we must also be transformed.