None of us living today has ever experienced a year like 2017 or a president like Donald Trump. That’s not the same thing as saying 2017 is some unforeseen, new phenomenon. Trump is not an anomaly; he is as fundamental to America as baseball and apple pie. Newton’s third law of motion tells us for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Trump is the predictable, visceral, emotional white supremacist response to the presidency of Barack Obama.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the moral reckoning that’s awaiting white America in the form of the November 2018 election. It’s been said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Much like with the election of 1860, white America has reached a fork in the road and must choose a path.
One path is hope and change, embodied in the presidency of Barack Obama; the other path is to make America white again, represented by Donald Trump. These paths cannot be reconciled; they are alternate realities that cannot coexist. The instability we’re currently experiencing is because there are two objects trying to occupy the same space. The laws of physics don’t permit this: One must prevail, and the other ceases to exist.
Here is the black dilemma: There is nothing we can do to influence decision of white America. That is an argument among white Americans about who they are and what America means. This argument is as old as the republic, and they have avoided this reckoning since that summer in Philadelphia in 1789.
When push comes to shove, a majority of white Americans will be with Trump and vote to make America white again. I don’t have a clue about the white over or under, but whatever it is, we are not without options. This is where we and all the other folk who are the nonwhite “other” come into play.
There is a term in formal logic, the material conditional, that can help with understanding what has to happen in November of this year. In logic, necessity and sufficiency are implicational relationships between statements. The assertion that one statement is a necessary and sufficient condition of another means that the former statement is true if and only if the latter is true. The material conditional makes no claim that one statement causes the other.
In political terms, it looks like this: the majority of white Americans will support Trump, and there are not enough black Americans to outvote the white Trump Americans. This is the given in this problem. In order to prevail in November, it will be necessary for enough anti-Trump white voters to show up to make the black vote sufficient to defeat the Republican “make America white” again vote.
But you can also reverse the positions. You can assert that it’s necessary for us to produce enough black votes to make the anti-Trump white vote sufficient to prevail in November. We can’t dictate or influence how many white people vote, but we’re in total control of how many black people vote. That’s what happened in the special election for U.S. Senate in Alabama: Black voters seized control of their fate by producing the necessary numbers to make the anti-crazy-Republican (Roy Moore) white vote sufficient to win.
Let’s understand why voting in historic numbers in 2018 is a moral imperative for us.
Trump’s America bears a striking resemblance to the Germany of the early 1930s. But the historical reality is that from 1619 to 2017 there has never been a majority of white Americans that has considered the welfare of nonwhite Americans to have standing equal to theirs (the power still ain’t on in Puerto Rico). Black people don’t participate in America’s politics to make our lives or the country better, we participate so our lives won’t get worse. We have survived in spite of America, not because of it.
Everything you don’t control is a weapon to be used against you. Our failure to understand and act on this premise makes us accomplices in our own demise. We can’t dictate the outcome of future events but we are always masters of our fate, the captains of our soul.
Mike Jones is a former senior staffer in St. Louis city and county government and current member of the Missouri State Board of Education and The St. Louis American editorial board. In 2016, he was awarded Best Serious Columnist for all of the state’s large weeklies by the Missouri Press Association.