In contrast, the majority of every non-White group cast their ballots against Trump. Joe Biden received 87 percent of the votes of African Americans, 66 percent of the votes of Latinx people and 63 percent of the votes of Asian Americans. While Trump picked up votes from Black men and Latinx communities compared with 2016, this shift was not nearly enough to upend Biden’s supermajority among African Americans, and his winning approximately two-thirds of the Hispanic vote. (I acknowledge that exit polls are not precise and are subject to revision.)
It’s a commonplace that the category “people of color” is somewhat incoherent, because there is so much diversity among those lumped together. But one thing that unites this group is an apparent revulsion to Trump. The most interesting — and terrifying — question is why nearly 6 in 10 White people don’t share this antipathy.
Trump will go down as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. His response, or lack thereof, to the coronavirus pandemic contributed to the deaths of thousands of Americans. Trump’s placing of his political interests above the nation’s led to his impeachment. His coziness with Russia was, at best, corrupt and, at worst, treasonous. The next attorney general will have difficult decisions to make about whether the former president should be investigated for alleged criminal conduct.
In the face of all of this, a majority of White people voted for another four years. Maybe it’s not fair to judge an entire community by its majority. But this is not about White people’s feelings.
This is about a ceaseless sense of vulnerability among people of color that turns out to be entirely warranted. Fifty-seven percent of White Americans prefer a leader who described African countries as “shitholes,” referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, and calls the disease that has killed more than 237,000 people in this country the “Chinese virus.”
Last week I binge-watched “Lovecraft Country,” a science fiction series set in the 1950s where the Black characters confront supernatural monsters and ordinary White people, with equally harrowing consequences. It was the perfect run-up to the 2020 election.
President-elect Biden is far, far preferable to Trump. But it is important to recognize that he has rarely been a leader on race, most times a dutiful follower. Still, despite Biden’s studied lack of wokeness, African Americans have richly rewarded him. One made Biden his vice president. Others handed him the Democratic nomination. This week their votes made him the next president of the United States.
Their calculus was that Biden’s moderation, including his temperance on race, is what made him electable. That turned out to be right. “Electable” is a fraught concept for people of color. It seems to mean they must, in a White majority country, submerge some of their perceived interests to form coalitions with the minority of White people who are not opposed to voting with them.
The result is that highly qualified presidential candidates of color, including Sens. Kamala D. Harris and Cory Booker, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro were discounted by people of color this election because the candidates themselves were people of color, and thus perceived to be less capable of defeating Trump. This was probably a smart strategy. Part of the sickness of this country is that minorities have to play along with white supremacy to keep a bigot out of the White House.
On the campaign trail, Biden often stated that the election was about the soul of the country. He was right. But no one should imagine that his mere victory is enough to save the country’s soul. It’s encouraging that the president-elect, in a national address while the votes were being counted, recognized “a mandate for action on covid, the economy, climate change, systemic racism.” He must lead understanding that the latter is as threatening to our safety and our democracy as the first three — and in some ways, harder to cure.
In my book, “Chokehold: Policing Black Men,” published at the start of the Trump administration, I wrote about the idea among activists that Trump’s presidency might spark a “productive apocalypse,” in which the continuing existence of White privilege would finally be plain to all Americans.
Nearly four years later, we have witnessed more apocalypse than productivity. For all of the attention to the national reckoning on race, it does not appear that most White folks learned much. Trump appears to have received virtually the same percentage of the White vote in 2020 that he did in 2016.
After Inauguration Day, Trump might recede back to the nonscripted entertainment that has always been his brand. But Trumpism is the monster that, having tasted blood, will never be satisfied. A majority of African Americans, Latinx and Asian Americans, along with a minority of White people, elected Biden to put the monster down.
Respectfully, Mr. President-elect, do your job.