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How Trump’s presidency exemplifies American white privilege

How Trump’s presidency exemplifies American white privilege

How Trump’s presidency exemplifies American white privilege
November 16
12:00 2020

Donald Trump’s presidential term was riddled with unprecedented debacles. With tax fraud, sexual assault allegations and celebrity feuds, Trump’s unconventional presidency makes the case that perhaps his reality TV and business career did not prepare him to lead a country. On a larger scale, the absurd lack of consequences for his many faux pas over the past four years exemplifies how white privilege functions in America.

Because America was founded on the idea that Black people are inferior, society still favors white people. Black communities are overpoliced and underfunded, causing Black people to be disproportionately killed by police. White privilege also presents itself in the form of a racial wealth gap. African Americans were emancipated over 150 years ago, were still denied access to education, jobs and other opportunities that would allow them to build wealth long after. Today, the most prevalent form of white privilege exists by how Black people are held to a higher standard of behavior, requiring them to think twice about how their actions will be perceived. 

Trump’s presidency follows eight historic years under the first Black U.S. President, Barack Obama. Both of his presidential terms were free of personal scandal. He announced his presidential candidacy at the site of Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, launching a campaign characterized by hope and progression. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s campaign established itself as divisive with its initial slogan of “Make American Great Again,” implying America had suffered greatly under Obama’s leadership. Now at the end of his four years, Trump’s approach has found himself the subject of criticism from many prominent world leaders. Nevertheless, many Americans are willing to overlook his mistakes, as evident by the success of his re-election campaign.

Trump supporters who fail to acknowledge his political inexperience, blatant disregard for medical professionals, tax fraud accusations and divisive rhetoric are the same people who criticized Obama for simply wearing a tan suit. I am not drawing comparisons to spur discussion of who was the better president. Tt is more important to explore the reasoning behind Trump’s ability to get away with behavior unbecoming of a president. Trump’s presidency is a prime example of how white people do not have to present themselves well to succeed. 

American society has conditioned citizens to see Black people as less than since the country’s beginning. White privilege is built into the foundation of many American institutions. Even after being freed from slavery, Black Americans were denied opportunities on the basis of skin color. In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed an executive order setting the stage for institutions to practice inclusion. President Johnson ushered in an era that implemented affirmative action and allowed Black people access to more opportunities.

African Americans needing legislation in order to receive equal consideration and basic human rights speaks volumes to the privilege white Americans obtain. Obama’s credibility was constantly questioned despite his Harvard Law degree and his experience as a lawyer and a senator. Trump’s higher education history is, like many details about his past, vague since he has avoided releasing his college transcripts to the public. Trump boasts his education and discredits Obama’s academic accomplishments, but refuses to back up his claims.

Trump’s tendency to speak without providing evidence to support his statements shows how American society is trained to accept white voices as the ethical standard. It also points to Black Americans being held to a higher standard of behavior. In the workforce, Black employees are more likely to receive negative performance reviews and are more likely to be fired over a mistake than their white peers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Black people have to be twice as qualified and work twice as hard to earn the same success handed to many white people. 

Trump’s presidency reinforces every aspect of white privilege. He is underqualified for the job and has proven it by constantly contradicting himself, behaving unprofessionally on social media and spreading false information. His reckless actions are overlooked because his skin color allows him to smooth over his many blunders. While Trump is the most public example of white privilege, it occurs in everyday life. It is up to white Americans to hold each other accountable and to treat Black people with respect without making them work to earn it.

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

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Rhema Joy Bell

Rhema Joy Bell

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