Capitalism, Racism, and Trumpism: Whitelash and the Politics of Oppression

David G. Embrick, J. Scott Carter, Cameron Lippard, Bhoomi K. Thakore


That the rising tide of fascism, headwinds of neoliberalism, or persistence of racism in the United States is institutional, systemic, and part of a long history of oppression towards various groups is not new news. The bigger question is how we got to a point in which overt manifestations of racism, sexism, faux democracy, and other forms of illegality and authoritarianism has once again become normalized. What does it mean when a sitting President claims that Mexican immigrants are rapists, criminals, and drug runners? How did we get to a point where we, collectively, are not as outraged as we reasonably should be? In this paper, we argue that part of the explanation for the rise of, and loyalty to, Trumpism lies in Donald Trump’s ability to fuel “whitelash.” We define whitelash as individual, institutional, and/or structural countermeasures against the dismantling of white supremacy or actions, real or imagined, that seek to remedy existing racial inequities. Whitelash, we argue, is a reaction to challenges made to the white status quo; it is a reaction to growing diversity; it is a reaction against any progressive changes that would call out racism, question white privilege, or suggest racial equality is necessary to meet American ideals of fairness, in any of its forms. We present two historical case studies (immigration and affirmative action) that highlight the role of whitelash in the U.S.


Capitalism; Classism; Racism; White Supremacy; Whiteness; Trumpism

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