Trump Teach In: A Lesson on White Liberalism


Michael Layer, Sports Editor

March 5th, 2017

Last Monday, February 20th, the Peace Studies department held an interdisciplinary lecture conceptualizing how Donald Trump won the most recent election and a prediction of what the future will look like in his time in office. Speakers included Martin Shuster from Judaic Studies, Lana Oweidat from English, Danny Kimball from Communications, and Yousuf Al-Bulushi from the Peace Studies Department. The nearly two hour lecture was livestreamed by The Quidecim and posted on its Facebook page.

The lecture was attended by roughly 45 students and had many viewers online.  Though many professors gave different takes on the reasons why Trump won the election, all four professors spoke about one common theme: white liberal opposition.

Martin Shuster criticized the way white liberals try to make Donald Trump seem unrepresentative of American politics. He cites examples of Trump’s administration’s policies being contrary to American ideals of liberty, equality, and justice. Shuster finds that white liberals hold Trump up to be diametrically opposed to American values. They glamorize former President Obama, unaware that he deported nearly three milllion people, the most of any American president in history. Shuster mentioned when white liberals are quick to criticize Trump for his proposed marginalization of Muslim, Latina/o/x, and LGBTQA+ citizens, they are often silent and therefore complicit the current ostracism of African Americans, white supremacy, and unjust deportation of people in the United States. It appears that white liberals fight against injustice only when it applies to their agenda.

Lana Oweidat provided an interesting critique of white liberalism. She compared the conscious way Trump supporters seek to marginalize Muslim people mirrors the unintentional way white liberals marginalize Muslim people through messages of solidarity. She brought up political scientific studies that show that anti-Muslim sentiments peak, not after terrorist attacks, but during election cycles. To her, Islamophobia “can be used as a tool of public manipulation.” Oweidat first considers the way Trump supporters “consume” an unfounded fear of the Islamic faith and reveals that because of their anxiety, they are more open to promises of “totality, conformity, and prejudice.” This conscious Islamophobia contrasts with unwise white liberal attempts to promote unity, but ends up as cultural appropriation and stereotypical misrepresentation. Oweidat says that these attempts, though well intentioned, can be just as harmful as the prejudice white liberals who want to overturn by imposing their white, western, American values. Oweidat urges white liberals to be conscious that their culture is not the only one and not more important than any other.

Danny Kimball, a Communications professor, discussed the media’s coverage of the most recent election, specifically social media’s role of disseminating ‘fake news.’ He talks about how news media covers political campaigns as a ‘horserace,’ encouraging a commercial, sensationalist, ratings driven coverage of American politics. Political coverage in this way gives rise to information more focused on entertainment, rather than a commitment to the truth. Social media played an important role in the election, specifically fragmenting, polarizing, and radicalizing the population: “The algorithms of social media platforms are designed to show us more of what we already think… and that further acts to polarize a segregated society ever more apart from each other.” Kimball claims that social media platforms acted as echo chambers (silos or bubbles) where people only engaged with information that agreed with their bias. On Election Day, he felt that white liberals weren’t compelled to campaign or simply vote because they felt comfortable reading sources that predicted Clinton winning.

Peace Studies professor, Yousuf Al-Bulushi, spoke about the concept of Liberalism and how global politics became polarized. Al-Bulushi began his remarks by comparing Trump’s candidacy to other populist movements in American history. He also gave a brief history of how American liberalism focused on white, straight, Christian, property owning men. White centrists felt comfortable with their dominant place in American political culture until several civil rights movements and the economic crash of 2008 threatened white supremacy. A right-wing backlash was created in response to a perceived lack of social status among white centrists that were focused on the prominence of Barack Obama and #BlackLivesMatter. In the 2016 campaign, when Clinton appealed to white centrism, many white centrists had already become Trump supporters, who were promised a return to the white supremacy of the eighties.

The Trump: Teach In was focused on ways to analyze the manner in which Trump won the 2016 election. The lecture was thoughtful, insightful, and critical of both Donald Trump and white liberals whose shortsightedness failed to thwart him.

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