NORWALK, Conn. — How did Donald Trump win the presidential election — an outcome that "has left our nation as racially and ethnically divided as it has ever been," a theologian asked in a talk Monday evening in Norwalk.
The Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas spoke to over 60 people on this question in her talk titled, "Stand Your Ground In An Era of Black Lives Matter" at St. Paul’s On The Green.
“How has this man been elected president in a country that proclaims life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all?” said Douglas, who serves as a canon theologian at Washington National Cathedral.
The answer, she said, is deeply rooted in America’s history with regard to how race is perceived.
“The point is just as we all know that slavery was a central precipitating factor in the Civil War, there is no doubt that Trump's campaign resonated with the fears, the anxieties and economic woes of a particular white, working-class demographic," said Douglas, a professor of religion at Goucher College in Baltimore.
Trump’s campaign was built upon people’s disillusionment, resentment and sense of feeling left out, she said. "It built upon these with a narrative that was coated with racism," Douglas said.
The deeply differing perspectives of the nature of Trump's campaign and election, and the factors leading to his victory, “reveal a sinister truth about our nation — a truth that has left our nation as racially and ethnically divided as it has ever been," she said.
What happened on election night should not come as a real surprise, she said. "Trump's campaign and election was as American as apple pie. It was not an American anomaly."
The Trump campaign tapped into America's defining narrative of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism, Douglas said.
The early Americans crossed the Atlantic "with a vision to build a nation that was politically and culturally, if not demographically true to their exceptional Anglo-Saxon heritage," she said.
She said these early Americans had a vision to build an elitist nation.
Through early American leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, "America’s democracy was conceived as an Anglicized divine calling," Douglas said.
“As such, America was envisioned as a testament to the sacredness of Anglo-Saxon character and values, if not people."
She said from America's earliest beginnings, there was an emergence of a supremacist white culture, that to be white was to be privileged.
"Even if unspoken, America's greatness has been defined by a myth of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism that determined who is a real American and who is not," she said.
The privilege of whiteness ”is why the culture of whiteness is nothing less than a stand your ground culture, as it stands its ground against any means necessary against all that is not white," Douglas said.
She said America perceives black lives as expendable "unless they can be maintained and controlled in such a way that they don't interfere with the myth of white exceptionalism in this nation.”
Trump became president by "unearthing and revitalizing the truth about America that resonated with far too many of its citizens," Douglas said.
"Trump played into the Anglo-Saxon cultural of whiteness that is the odious underside of American identity."