“Race to the Bottom,” chapter five of Necessary Trouble, is by far my favorite chapter. Not just because it is about race, but because of how it is about race. From Trayvon to white privilege to institutionalized racism to slavery’s relationship capitalism – Jaffe touched on it all. I recently did a project for another class in which I tracked a digital journal’s conversations about race from its first volume and issue to its most recent. The way we talk about race is always changing. Everyday it seems that there are always new phrases and definitions being circulated into our vocabulary. There are always new experiences being shared amongst communities and across the country. These evolutions in our speech has been a sign of hope, of people of color finally being listened to and coming together to fight for our right to exist.
Recently, though, there is one conversation that Jaffe mentions that seems to be an echo of the past, a conversation stuck in its racism.
“At the Tea Part rallies amid the signs calling to “Take Our Country Back” and the American flags, there was another noticeable pattern: signs that remarked upon the race of the new president” (129).
As Jaffe says, no one was shy about attacking their newly elected president in 2008. Similarly, in 2017, no one is afraid of attacking our newly elected president. However, there is also an incredibly large group of people that say we must give Trump a chance, that it is racist for us to call out his racism, that no one would have treated Obama this poorly, no one would have protested.
But wait…they did.
“Some called for his birth certificate, or played on the fact that Barack Obama’s father was Kenyan. One woman giggled as she read off her two-sided sign. ‘What’s the difference between the Cleveland Zoo and the White House?’ the front asked. ‘The zoo has an African lion and the White House has a lyin’ African'” (129).
Barack Obama, despite being the president of the United States, became a metaphor. An assailant, an attacker, an Other that people had to take the country back from. No one was shy about their racism in 2008, just as they aren’t in 2017, but now, through ever-growing social media sites, we are having many more conversations with much more vocabulary – conversations I see echoed in Jaffe’s writing. What I also see is a call for a revolution. Jaffe has mentioned force many times up until this point in the book, an idea I agree with.
Historically, freedom has always come with violence. Even in cases of silent sit-ins and peaceful marchers, violence still rang out through bullet wounds, fire hoses and dog bites. Sometimes shouting isn’t enough to drown out the everlasting echoes of racism. Sometimes action is even louder.