Preparing For White Backlash, No Matter What Happens To Donald Trump

The President’s Covid-19 diagnosis sent the country into chaos, but what’s next may be worse for marginalized communities

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

To be Black and survive in America means being keenly able to predict the dangers white folks are going to inflict on us so that we can adapt and survive—whether avoiding eye contact with white women during Jim Crow to avoid lynchings, or not driving around dark roads in the ’60s to avoid becoming the target of white folks angry about the Civil Rights movement. This survival instinct has kept us alive. Even now, when we leave the house we know to put our wallets in cup holders so we don’t go in our pockets when police pull us over. American streets are full of activists whose lives depend on their ability to predict attacks from increasingly militarized police; they equip themselves with shields, milk, and enough bail money to get free. Blackness comes with the ability to soothsay about the ways this country tries to destroy us. The calculus never ends.

So when it was revealed that Donald Trump had tested positive for Covid-19 and subsequently experienced dire health complications, my group chats and private messages were full of Black folks asking the same question: which outcome is going to wreak the most havoc on us? There are two scenarios here. Either Trump lives, or Trump dies. Either way, it’s going to be dangerous for the people he has abused the most.

If Trump survives, you can bet he will come out on the other side as more of a hero to his base; they now sees someone who overpowered the disease that killed 200,000 people. They’ll celebrate his tenacity while at the same time downplaying the disease as something the President easily overcame. How can they not hang on to every word he says after that? His directives to white supremacist groups to “stand by” are only going to hold more weight. Who’s going to wear a mask now when he emerges treating Covid-19 like a cold? How many more die when he continues to hold and encourage superspreader events like the one outside of his hospital room that he just drove in front of with the Secret Service?

And then there’s what happens if he succumbs to this disease. What if Donald Trump becomes a martyr—and the heartbreak and rage that emerges from the most violent groups that love him manifests itself in anger directed at everyone else? His word becomes coda for a community that was already donating money to Kyle Rittenhouse’s GoFundeMe.

Politicians like Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler couldn’t wait to blame China for Trump contracting the coronavirus, not holding him accountable for ignoring medical recommendations and basic decency. Imagine who else will follow that lead, endangering anyone who looks even remotely Asian, which was already happening before Trump got sick. The Proud Boys and other groups were already attacking Black Lives Matter protesters. How do they feel like they want to avenge the death of their fearless leader?

White rage never exists in a vacuum. It always shows up in violence against marginalized people. The white rage at this scale? Massive. We have already been preparing for it if Trump loses in November, but the violence if he doesn’t even make it will surely eclipse that.

These are the conversations being had in private. These are the ways Black folks are gaming out what comes next and praying for a resolution that leads to the least amount of lives lost possible. Covid has already claimed more than 200,000 Americans. The summer of discontent has only added to the death toll and trauma.

The past four years (and beyond) have been all about preparing ourselves and reacting to the worst of this country and the way it threatens our lives. That won’t stop regardless of what happens to Trump in the next few days or this country past November. But for now we wait, brace ourselves and continue to survive.

Note: I know this is supposed to be a space for other stuff that’s not like this but the freaking president has Covid, so I felt like things should be said about it. Maybe we’ll get back to something else next week. Maybe.

Level Sr. Writer covering Race, Culture, Politics, TV, Music. Previously: The Undefeated, The Atlantic, Washington Post. Forthcoming book: The Movement Made Us

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