Race and Gender Shrapnel: He Said, He Said Again, He Kept Saying

He Said, He Said Again, He Kept Saying

An example of race shrapnel (via Donald Trump) is: “Our policemen and women are disrespected. We need law and order, but we need justice too. Our inner cities are a disaster. You get shot walking to the store. They have no education. They have no jobs. I will do more for African-Americans and Latinos that she can do for ten lifetimes.”  The move from “our” to “they” and then to “African-Americans and Latinos” establishes a clear us against them dynamic that repeats and extrapolates racist rhetoric.  An example of gender shrapnel is the use of “such a nasty woman” in addition to dozens of examples of misogynistic Trump-oric.

When you hear these words, phrases, and insults over and over, whether directed at you directly or at someone you see as like you, you have to do the active work of shucking off the insults and walking tall in your own body. Others’ experiences of discrimination pile onto your own. As many of us have recognized, Donald Trump’s repeated racial slurs and misogynistic rants become the substance of real aggression.

He Said, No One Said (on stage, at least)

When the Republican presidential nominee makes racist and anti-any-religion-but-Christianity statements in a two-party presidential debate, he is making an attack with no live person or people on stage to represent the attacked group or to oppose the vitriol. This is a case of He Said/No One Said because Donald Trump gets the final word on stage, a stage shared with millions of viewers. Individuals and groups on Facebook, Twitter, and some traditional media outlets have creatively exposed the candidate’s biases. Hurray, social media, for at least partially disarming the powerfully armed through intelligence, wit, and populist reach. Trump’s biased statements, nevertheless, still leave in the air the words that group people together using a violent shorthand. For example, “hombres” is supposed to evoke the candidate’s previous statements about Mexicans, and the repeated reference to “inner cities” reinforces his previous equation of inner-city suffering with black populations. Of course, anyone who points out this modus operandi is dismissed as ridiculous, wrong, nasty, or worse.

He Said, He Said

On the gender front, the debate forum has given Donald Trump the opportunity to launch direct, misogynistic attacks, cloaked in the “Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody” competitive gambit that has provoked loud guffaws and hilarious memes. But the attacks–from the Access Hollywood tape, to the Howard Stern tapes, to the Alicia Machado twitter storm, to the barrage of castigating language against Hillary Clinton—have a violent feel to them. In fact, we know that Trump himself has threatened to execute acts of violence against Hillary Clinton and has encouraged his supporters to do the same. (See, for example, the transcript of the second debate.) By several accounts (see, for example, Ezra Klein/Vox), Hillary Clinton did an admirable job of predicting and navigating the gender shrapnel aimed at her during all three debates.

On October 20, 2016, The New York Times ran an inflammatory headline—“Hillary Clinton, Mocking and Taunting in Debate, Turns the Tormentor.” Really, New York Times? Really? Are you equating Trump’s hateful attacks, stalking, and bullying presence with Hillary Clinton’s calm refutations, policy-speak, and reassurances about her experience, knowledge, and know-how? She had to interrupt on occasion and speak over the other two on stage just to be able to speak and respond to the moderator’s questions. If there was a strategy to use Trump’s weaknesses against him—and I think we all know there was—well, then, that’s just smart debating. Just as with the Kaine-Pence debate, the Democratic candidate was just exposing and repeating the words of the Republican candidate. Hillary Clinton isn’t Trump’s tormentor. Trump is Trump’s tormentor. Hillary Clinton still interrupted far less than Trump and still had less time to speak. Donald Trump still recited “Wrong,” “Wrong,” like an insane mantra, interrupting much of the time that was supposed to go to Clinton. The use of the word “caustic” (The New York Times’ adjective, employed here) to describe the tone of the debate yet again attempts to establish a false equivalency between the two candidates. Donald is caustic. Hillary is caustic. No, the real analysis just tells us that Donald is caustic and Donald is caustic.

He Said, They Said

As I have stated before on this blog, Donald Trump has already had way too much air time, and I regret giving him even more here. In fact, this “air time” question seems ever more acute if we consider the terrible possibility of Trump TV.

In the meantime, I want to underscore the notion that racial and sexual discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are on a continuum with racial and sexual assault and violence. The rhetoric we have heard from Donald Trump for decades, cemented throughout the primary and national seasons, must be considered part and parcel of a man who is capable of much more.

In The Atlantic (September 19, 2016), Peter Beinart forecasts the demise of “He Said, She Said” journalism, but I think we are not quite there yet. The 2005 Access Hollywood tape is the talk, the “he said.” It is most unfortunate that the news media has dedicated little ink to the many women who have come forward to state that they were harassed and/or assaulted by Donald Trump. This New York Magazine piece lists these numerous allegations. Somehow, despite the many women in the “they said” column, we are still listening to this man, and many are still considering voting for him.

Why are these stories, told by real, live human beings and so connected to the rape culture we talk and write about, still not really front-page news? Do we somehow just want victims to shut up because their stories force us to think about the quality of our government and the roles we play—or don’t—in advocating for real justice? Do we think Trump is more trustworthy than the 22 (maybe 23 at this point) accounts of alleged discrimination, harassment, and assault described in the New York Magazine piece? Why are we so afraid to hold Donald Trump accountable?

Let’s stop the ridiculous “he said, she said” farce. If we look at “he said, he did”—on race, religion, and gender lines—then we have plenty to go on.

{Note:  Since I published this post, a friend sent me a short, related piece from the CNN site, linked here.}

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