I had to go to work before you woke up this morning, so we haven’t had a chance to discuss the U.S. election results. I know you were worried. I’m sure today at school will be confusing and upsetting for you. A lot of people are feeling confused and upset. I’ll keep this brief, I know you’ve got classes to get to.
Trump won last night. You will hear that he was chosen by people who are ignorant and uneducated, but it isn’t that simple. White people overwhelmingly supported Trump, while Black, Indigenous and people of colour voted for Clinton. That fact is important.
There was also a very low voter turnout. A lot of people didn’t bother to vote, or weren’t able to vote. I know I’ve talked to you before about why so many Indigenous people in Canada refuse to vote: this isn’t our system, we never consented to be a part of it. This does not make us at fault when another Prime Minister comes into power and continues to strip us of our land and resources. A lot of people in the U.S. had their voting rights taken away, and others felt that a choice between Trump and Clinton wasn’t a real choice at all. Nothing will be solved by blaming those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t participate in a system that offers so little real choice. Maybe we haven’t talked enough about this yet, but another Clinton in the White House was not going to make things magically better either.
Trump ran on an openly racist, misogynist, and anti-LGBTQ platform, and millions of people supported this. Even very educated people. This kind of thing has happened around the world more than once. Never forget, Hitler was elected too.
Trump didn’t invent white supremacy. It has been here since settlers arrived. There have been seven different U.S. presidents in power since I was born, and nine different Prime Ministers. None of them ever really challenged white supremacy in any meaningful way. This kind of system would chew up and spit out a leader who tried. Since these political systems were imposed on these lands, they have always been about forcefully taking land and resources (even turning human beings into objects, resources to exploit), for the benefit of a very few. That has not changed.
I keep talking about “white supremacy” and you might be confused. Yes, the racism is obvious, but what about the hatred of women and LGBTQ? What about the treatment of people with disabilities? What about poor people? I think you have a pretty good grasp of intersectionality, but it’s a conversation we need to keep having. Yes, a lot of white people are facing some pretty scary things under Trump; don’t make the mistake of thinking white supremacy means all white people have it easy. White supremacy is a system of power and control, and it doesn’t matter if a white person thinks that system sucks; whiteness chooses who is “white”, and not the other way around.
But a Black woman is going to face different kinds of oppression than a white woman. Racialized people (people who are not accepted by whiteness, and who are thought of as being a certain way by white people) with disabilities, or who are LGBTQ, etc, are being targeted for hatred on many levels.
White people will experience some of that oppression too, but they will not face the same racism, and that difference matters a lot. It is easy for white people to think that racialization and racism isn’t a big problem, because they don’t face it. Look at how much work Black Lives Matter has had to put in to get non-Black people to even talk about the specific kinds of violence that Black people face. (Work that has built on generations of struggles!) You yourselves know how hard it is to get non-Indigenous people to even hear us when we talk about the things we experience. If a person don’t live it, it’s so easy to think these things aren’t serious problems we ALL have to fight against.
Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. The social and political systems that were brought to these lands are violent, and oppressive. They harm even those who support these systems, and who believe these systems can be fixed. Heck, they even harm the people who seem to benefit most from power and control; those people need clean water and air too, but their selfishness consumes it all.
Our people have existed on these lands since time immemorial. We have rich and vibrant social and political systems; ways of living in harmony with one another, with our non-human relations, and with non-living beings. Very slowly, settlers are catching on to the need to live this way too. And you, nitânisak, you already understand so much more than I did at your age. Your ancestors hold you.
I love you all, and this isn’t the end of the world; though I do hope it is the beginning of the end for settler colonialism and white supremacy.