Politics & Race
Dear White Liberals: The Curious Phenomenon of Trump Tears

The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation I had with a White liberal “ally”:

Her: …not to mention the racism. I understand why y’all are scared of a Trump presidency.

Me: It’s not fear. We are concerned. Black people aren’t scared of Donald Trump.

Her: You should be.

Me: Should be?

Her: Yes. We’ve seen what can happen when leaders don’t care about a certain segment of the population, and it can be terrible. So many people feel disenfranchised and…

Me: I know. I just wish y’all would’ve come to that conclusion standing on the shores of Africa 500 years ago.

Lately I’ve encountered a relatively new trend in the arena of ex post facto whining. Although I have become quite acquainted with the increasingly frequent phenomenon we now call “White tears” there is a new subset that is starting to appear on the event horizon that is simultaneously troubling and even more laughable. I call it “Trump tears.”

I’m sure you’ve seen it. Whenever White progressives, neoliberal social justice warriors, or bullshitting, privileged pseudo-sympathizers bring up the subject of Donald Trump, they immediately break into sniffles and moans about how tragic this entire elections result must be, for us, and how they are on our side. Trump tears are easily induced because–in their minds–the orange-tinted despot is the antithesis of everything “America” is supposed to stand for. After they wipe their weepy eyes and suck up the whimpering snot, they will reveal that they are “with you.” They are allies who recognize the struggle “your people” face under the upcoming administration, and they are here for you. If you ever encounter anyone crying Trump tears, the first thing you should know is they aren’t crying with you,  they are crying for you.

Calm down Y. P. Pull, we ain’t scared.

We voted against the Trump regime en masse, but after the votes were counted, we moved on. We don’t have access to the privilege you enjoy, so we aren’t out there picketing and throwing temper tantrums about how Hillary lost. We understand that your protests are just symbolic American gestures to express your outrage at Trump’s inevitable ascendency to the highest office in the land (although, I’d like to point out that when we did it in Ferguson and Baltimore, you called us thugs. But I digress).

Black people are pragmatic. If you look at assembled masses in front of Trump Towers, you’ll notice very few Black or Brown faces. It’s because we are used to this. If Black people took to the streets and marched every time we wanted a do-over we’d be overexercised marathoners. We value the sentiments of the do-gooders perched in Whole Foods parking lots collecting signatures to convince the electoral college to pull an about-face but we aren’t privy to the glut of White privilege you wrap your tears in.

Yes, White liberals, the reason we give you the collective side-eye is because your crying and bemoaning is a symptom of entitlement. The expectation of changing the outcome of an election, rewriting the Constitution and overthrowing a President because you didn’t get the results you wanted is the ultimate form of privilege-induced White tears.

Plus, we are leery of it all, because we’ve seen it before. We have witnessed what happens when you change the rules and subvert the law just because people are upset. We call that a lynch mob. We call that “The Emmit Till Case.” We call that “every-year from-1786-until-last-week.” If you were so adamant about bending the law towards justice and equality, why were you so silent during the George Zimmerman verdict? Or the after they dropped the charges in the Freddie Gray case. Or after the two Walter Scott verdicts? We know why. It’s because you don’t want justice and equality. You just want your way. 

Ultimately, Trump tears are not about oppressed minorities. They aren’t about the prospect of roving Immigration officers rolling around rounding up Mexicans and Muslims. They aren’t about the disenfranchised poor. They aren’t even about the autocratic imposition of conservative, Trumpian values. They are ultimately about the kicking and screaming of progressives who can’t accept defeat. They are the whines of wimps, doubled over after an unexpected gut-punch. Trump tears are about White fragility.

Our skins are tougher than that because we are fighters. Donald Trump is a racist, misogynist autocrat, so we hold up our guards and get ready to take the same punches we took from 43 of the 44 presidents before him. We presuppose the tanning booth tyrant will attack Black men like the Bush administration and the Clinton Administration. When we gird our loins against his decimation of minority communities, we will be re-using the same armor we wore during the Reagan era. The emergence of the White supremacist voting bloc is familiar to us. We remember when they used to call the “Alt-Right movement,” the “southern strategy.”

So don’t cry for us, White liberals. In fact, we should feel sorry for you. We are sorry to see the rug has been pulled out from under you, and you now see that you don’t live in the democratic, all-embracing utopia you thought you were in. America is a brutal, harsh place when your voice is discounted, but we have known it far too long. I know you want to scream at the unfairness of a system that seeks to represent the majority at the expense of a disenfranchised minority. But you wanna speak up now?

There is an old tradition in Black theater passed down from slavery. Saturday nights was typically the only time slaves could enjoy themselves. They would dance, sing and revel in their unrestrained joy. If you were one of the lucky few who got to stand in front of one of those crowds and provide entertainment, you had to be good. If you weren’t, they’d kick your ass off stage. Their time was too precious. That code of conduct lasted through vaudeville, the “chitlin’ circuit,” all the way to today. From the world famous Apollo Theater to backwoods juke joints, if you don’t bring your “A” game in front of a Black audience. you might get your ass kicked. Every moment on stage is a fight for your livelihood and existence. They all bomb on one night or another.  That is the key. They know they will get their ass kicked, but they sill go on stage. Black entertainers are so tough because every night they have to prove themselves. They dance harder. They sing louder.

Years later, a man encapsulated the sentiment of this entire historical tradition in a single sentence. Not only does it explain the mindset of every Black person who walks on stage, it perfectly sums up why we do not fear Donald Trump. It sums up why Black people have not collectively curled up in a ball on the floor or retreated back to our corners. It is the essence of why we fight, get knocked down, and stand back up, wobbly legged and all. It defines why we answer the bell every round. It spells out, in six words, why 500 years of free labor, arbitrary lynchings, razor-sharp german shepherd teeth, ice-cold firehose water, stainless steel billy clubs, indiscriminate police bullets and apathetic juries have not been able to knock us out or make us quit:

I ain’t scared of you motherfuckers!

Bernie Mack
1957 – 2008 


About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

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