It’s always strange starting a new project. You can only just see the outline of it, you have no idea how it’s going to turn out, yet there you are, laying the foundation.
For the past few months I’ve been having conversations with strangers on the internet pretty much every day. I read a steady stream of insults, misinformation, stupidity and meanness. We’ll get to all of it I promise. But I thought I’d kick things off with a conversation that gave me hope.
The following conversation, with a guy named Matthew, was inspired by an article I wrote in December 2020 called, “The Frustratingly Simple Reason Why Black People Voted For Trump“. After months of hearing people claim that everybody who voted for Trump was a racist, I decided to offer a more nuanced take. I thought I largely succeeded. Matthew, it seemed, did not:
I couldn't even get past the second paragraph. Trump did not call Mexicans rapists. He called some illegal immigrants from Mexico rapists in the context of why we need to know who is coming to the United States. David Duke, Proud Boys, and the Taliban support Trump? If true, so what? He has rejected white supremacy again and again...people have just decided what they want to be true and the conversation is suddenly over.
The birther movement is essentially asking whether an African American is even an American? No doubt there are racists among them, but wanting a Presidential candidate to prove he's Constitutionally qualified to be President is not inherently racist.
So every person of color who supported Trump is just another sad example of racial minorities voting for a racist? Sure. Ok. Or, could there be something else at work here that doesn't conveniently fit into any of the "isms" the Left has created as de-facto explanations for anyone whose views are non-compliant with Leftist dogma? Not listening to people is what got Trump elected in the first place.
This article is a great example of why it might happen again. So keep wagging your fingers in people's faces, keep assuming the moral high ground and talking down to those who dare to disagree with you, keep finding racism at the roots of every social problem..keep it up, and be ready to explain why Trump or someone like him gets elected again...my guess is the explanation will be racism yet again.
I couldn’t even get past the first paragraph…
I wish you had, because maybe I wouldn't be wasting my time responding to this if you’d read a little further.
Listen carefully, I'll explain this as simply as I can.
Last month, I wrote an article about Trump. Hundreds of people in the comments claimed that the only reason anybody voted for him was that they were racist.
This entire article is an argument, against the notion that racism is the only explanation for voting for Trump.
The arguments in it can be applied to people of any colour. I literally spell that out in the article. I'm not taking the moral high ground, I'm not accusing the black people, or any people who voted for Trump of racism, I'm literally arguing tthat racism is a simplistic explanation for the reasons people voted for Trump.
Jesus! So many people are triggered that I'm bad-mouthing papa Trump that they jump into the comments before understanding what they're criticising.
I was particularly pleased with that line about “Papa Trump”. Matthew responded the following day:
Thanks for responding.
There are three things that I think prevent good faith conversations between people who disagree:
Allowing emotion to infect one’s thought process.
Not listening properly.
Not being able to acknowledge when one is wrong.
Having already been guilty of the first two, I do not want to make it worse by failing in the third. I was wrong to allow emotion to lead me to a false conclusion, and I was wrong not to listen to you by not reading your entire article. I am genuinely sorry.
I hope as you read my reply you will be courteous enough to grant me what I originally failed to grant you, an objective ear.
I do not support President Trump. He is not “papa” Trump to me. He began political life as a joke, then became outlandish, then tawdry, then nationally embarrassing, and now he is simply dangerous. We agree on that (I think).
I do, however, view most of the evidence used to proved Trump is a racist as anecdotal. Maybe he is racist, maybe he is not, but if anecdotes are sufficient to make the case, then it should be noted that Trump funded Historically Black Colleges & Universities to the tune of over $100 million, initiated prison reform that benefitted minorities who suffer disproportionally in our legal system, created economic opportunity zones for minority communities, and presided over the lowest African-American unemployment rate in American history.
Do these things prove he is NOT racist? Nope, not even close. But they do at least show there is some context that goes largely unappreciated. In the meantime, a man with a history (albeit equally anecdotal) of blatantly racist comments and actions is the alternative.
If someone referred to racial integration as a potential cause of a “racial jungle”, or supported the 1994 Crime Bill that has had a horribly disproportional effect on Americans of color, or said of people who have a hard time figuring out whether they support him, “you ain’t black”, or said “poor kids are as bright as white kids”, or “..unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly diverse attitudes about different things”, what would we call that person? Is that person a racist? Maybe he is, maybe he is not. But he IS the next President, and he’s the guy minority voters are supposed to embrace instead of Trump?
So Trump isn’t the guy…we agree on that. But if the alternative is Biden then it seems reasonable to me why some people of color would choose Trump. In the infamous words of a man whose name I look forward to hearing less and less…what have they got to lose?
Maybe you’ll reject all of the points I’m attempting to make here. That, of course, is your prerogtive. I truly hope I’ve at least given you something to consider. If not, I hope you’ll at least accept my apology for reaching an emotional and premature conclusion about your article.
That’s right. Not only did he offer this mature and sincere apology, not only did he go on to write this nuanced comment, but worst of all, he took all of the fun out of my “Papa Trump” line. I was furious.
Hi Matthew, let me just say, I don't have the words to express my respect for this reply. Thank you. Everybody makes mistakes. Only the best of us have the integrity to recognise them and apologise for them. Especially on the internet where it's so easy to hide.
I make reference to Biden's racism in the piece. Please don't take my criticisim of Trump to be approval for Biden. It's certainly not. And yes, based on that, I think that many black people just decided that if I'm getting a racist either way, I may as well focus on other priorities.
Biden I would say is better (generally) at hitting the right soundbites on race. He's not as overtly offensive as Trump, so voting for him as a black person is a little easier to swallow. But yeah, I largely agree with you.
Thanks again for your reply. It's given my faith in human nature the top-up it needed today.
The internet is a strange place. It’s anonymous and impersonal and ephemeral. You can say whatever you want without risking any real world consequences. And if you lose an argument you can just block the other person or skulk away in silence. Matthew didn’t do that. He took time out of his day to go online and admit to a complete stranger that he was wrong.
Over the coming days and weeks I’ll be sharing numerous conversations that didn't go nearly as smoothly, but I wanted this one to set the tone. It’s easy to feel that those we disagree with are irredeemable. Especially when they start off with all guns blazing. But Matthew reminded me that’s not the case. And as crazy as some comments get, remembering that fact usually keeps me sane.