Over the weekend, I started noticing that the handshakes were a little tighter, the hugs lingered a little longer and the face-to-face greetings were a little warmer as we all tried to process what had happened last week.
In our homes, our churches, our community centers, in the streets, when people came together, they craved community.
Oh, and answers. So many answers.
People were reacting to Donald Trump’s win after a long and divisive campaign. Racism, misogyny and xenophobia became a hallmark of the entire campaign. Immediately after, people reported Trump-inspired hate crimes that they had experienced.
People put on safety pins — however effective those are. They picked up books — no doubt many are now reading “The New Jim Crow” with renewed interest. But they still wanted answers.
How did this happen? How were the polls so wrong? Why did we elect a person whose comments on the stump were just as inflammatory as the things he said when he didn’t know he was being recorded?
News outlets picked apart the polls. Pundits made arguments for what-ifs that were too late to realize.
People argued that Sen. Bernie Sanders would have won this race over Donald Trump, with his own brand of anti-establishment and his ability to speak to disenfranchised voters. He had excited young voters and would have taken that energy into November with vigor. But, of course, we’ll never know whether that would have worked.
People argued that third-party candidates stole important votes that Clinton needed. But, of course, there were two popular third-party candidates representing conservative and progressive voices, so it’s impossible to know where those voters would have gone if they’d instead picked one of the major-party candidates.
People argued that support for Hillary Clinton was down among people of color compared to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election. But, of course, those who did vote opposed Trump by huge margins.
What strikes me is that all of the theories about what went wrong ignore a very large segment of the population that literally put Trump in office: White people.
By so many measures, Trump won among White voters. No surprise, White male voters supported Trump in a landslide (63 percent to Clinton’s 31). But he also won among White women (53 percent to Clinton’s 43) and White young voters ages 18 – 29 (48 percent to Clinton’s 43).
Meanwhile, people of color voted the other way in landslide margins, as much as 90 percent opposing the bigotry that has pervaded this election cycle. As far as I can tell, people of color are the only reason that Clinton won the popular vote.
The thing that troubles me about this narrative — the one that Clinton failed to gain support among people of color — is that it feels like White people trying to shift the blame when what really needs to happen today is a deep self-examination of how we as White people got here. How are White people willing to not only ignore overt racism, sexism and bigotry, but actually vote for it?
When we shift the blame, when we ask whether Latino voters or Black voters could have swung this election, as White people we are asking them to save us from ourselves. And it’s a sign that we’re unwilling to do our own work, perhaps that we’re not even aware of the work we have to do.
What happened in 2016 was a problem of how whiteness functions in our country. And it will take White people willing to examine their own whiteness to solve this particular problem about race in America.
So I understand why I and others are looking for those tighter handshakes, longer hugs and warmer greetings. I’m grieving, too. But these greetings need to accompany difficult conversations.
I know that in the weeks leading up to the election, I shied away from difficult conversations with friends and family members, whether they agreed with my worldview or not.
Those conversations we avoided before? We have to have them now.