Dr. William Barber at Occidental College: Something to Feel Good About

ELECTION POST-MORTEM-If you have found yourself profoundly depressed since the election of Donald Trump, you should have been at Occidental College on Wednesday night -- it would have given you hope. The Reverend Dr. William Barber II not only laid out in painful detail what put Trump in the White House, but also took the time in the clearest of terms possible to lay out the steps we the people can do about it now. It involves coming together and asserting our majority status in this democracy. 

Barber’s thesis is that endemic racism is not only alive and well, but is literally the only force powerful enough to get poor White voters in 95 of the poorest counties in the United States and elsewhere in the South to vote against their own economic self-interest. 

These poor voters should wonder why some of those pushing Trump or prior Republican candidates make as much as $97,000 an hour while they fight a $15 an hour minimum wage. The "gift" of racism is that it is able to deflect the blame of poor White exploitation by the obscenely rich to the usual Black, Latino, Muslim, and Jewish suspects, which continues to succeed in the 21st century by offering equally poor and downtrodden working class Whites the consolation prize of feeling at least nominally superior. 

What this left us with in the latest election -- and many of the ones proceeding it -- is the voting reality that this profoundly poor racist motived the voter core of 13 Southern states to give conservative Republicans and now Trump an almost insurmountable 171 Electoral College leg-up. Republicans then only need to accumulate another 99 electoral votes out of the remaining 37 states. 

But in North Carolina, Barber didn't stop at just pointing out the racist fear motivated model that has kept putting conservatives and now Trump in power. His Moral Mondays and other programs coordinated with litigation networked across racial and state lines to engage a multi-racial and ethnic have-not majority that has finally given constitutional "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" a substantive new reality as reflected in the election of a new Democratic governor and other elected officials. 

This has been accomplished, while waging a successful judicial confrontation and a reversal of what had been the systematic gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  

What I found to be a vindication of Dr. Barber's approach to all exploited people is something he mentioned briefly in passing. In the state of West Virginia where Trump won, Dr. Barber has now been asked to speak before predominantly White audiences ow that these folks have come to realize that the racially tainted Obamacare is actually the Affordable Care Act, and that is what Trump is in the process of taking away from them. 

The significance of race in the election of Donald Trump was clearly illustrated when Dr. Barber said, "There would have been no Trump without Obama first having been president for eight years" as a catalyst to White fear expressed in racism. But by the end of the evening it was also clear to the packed audience that if we organize now across racial and ethnic lines, then 95 million Americans will not sit out the next election as they did this one. And a 77,000 vote margin will never again be allowed to put a Trump into office. 

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP | P.O. Box 335,Durham NC 27702 | 919‑682‑4700 | Fax 919‑682‑4711 | info@naacpnc.org


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.