America’s transition from the Obama to the Trump administration

Alex Jensen, Staff Writer and Graphic Designer

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The most racially divisive America in the last fifty years is what Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts Jr. thinks that we are in. Pitts said after leaving what “people thought was a quote unquote post-racial America,” he is finding himself and questions that a lot of other people are re-evaluating their relationship with the country as people of color. Asking himself and others what we think and expect is going to happen in the future.

Mostly he was questioning whether is it possible to have hope and what it looks like. Pitts said “not just in the post-Trump era, although the election of Donald Trump puts a capstone on it, but also in the era of the Trayvon Martin killing, the era of Ferguson, the era of Freddie grey, the era of Tamir Rice, the era of the Walter Scott mistrial, the era of the voting rights act being eviscerated.”

        Pitts thinks since the election America has seen that “racism, xenophobia, and general bigotry has been emboldened by the fact that Donald Trump won.” He finds himself being appalled with a good part of the country because he believes the forces of white supremacy feel that they have an ally in the White House and the head of the Department of Justice.

        Of the many in this country, Pitts is feeling energized by their opposition. He is happy that people have been awakened and realized that this is their country, and if it is going progress and be “saved” it will not happen by itself. Pitts feels that it must be us who push for progress.

        He strongly believes in the ACLU logo “because freedom can’t protect itself,” stating, “I think that it is so true.” Pitts thinks a lot of Americans have taken for granted the freedom and progress that they have been enjoyed in this country. And “what we have come to see with the election and Mr. Trump and with the events the last few years,” Pitts said.

        Pitts continues, “there is nothing foreordained about this idea that the progress we made will continue or the progress that we made will always be.”

        He senses that a lot of people in the nation are beginning to see the “erosion” of a lot of things around us. Former president Barack Obama was in office for eight years. Pitts explains that a lot of things that we took for granted are things we are now realizing are not permanent.

        Pitts said, “I think that has been a gigantic wake up call for people so I am really pleased, I was really pleased by the Women’s March on Washington, I’m really pleased about the demonstrations a week later when the Muslim Ban went into effect, and I am really pleased frankly that there have been demonstrations pretty much every day since Trump was inaugurated.”

“That tells me that at least there are some of us as Americans who are not just going to roll over and play dead for what is going on in the country right now,” he continued.

He believes that Obama “left office with a pretty high approval rating and I think that he looks better and better as his successor goes deeper and deeper down this rabbit hole of unreality and surreality that he has carved for himself.”

Pitts clarifies that people did not have to agree with Obama’s policies but that he looks better as a “measure and thoughtful leader as somebody who could get through the day without this or that scandal, this or that head snapping moment of disconnection from reality, or this or that alternative fact making you want to plant your face in your palm.”

He claims that he doesn’t think that “anybody is ready to face this yet, but I think when the history books are written­­– somebody is going to have to deal.”

Pitts continues that division “is a big part of what ultimately elected Donald Trump because he was so voracious in his antipathy toward people of color, toward Muslims, toward everything, that threatens sort of the white hegemony that some of them still prize and cling to even though it is shrinking out from under them.”

He explains that he thinks Obama’s presidency tempted the split because straight, white males in this country feel that they are under siege. Since they have seen this rising of people who are not like them because of their sexual-orientation, race, gender or religion.

“I think that for essentially the bulk of American history, if you’re a straight, white, Christian male, you didn’t really have to worry about your place. Your place was the place of primacy in terms of America. Everything was geared toward your television, newspapers, magazines; everything was more or less geared toward your politics and people who look like you,” Pitts said.

He continues that more people like women, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Muslim-Americans are beginning to see greater visibility. Pitts said “I think for straight, white, Christian men that has been a really difficult thing.”

He uses this example when people asks him about this: “If you’ve been Gladys Knight for 400 years, it is going to be hard when somebody tells you that from now on you are just a background singer.”  

Now straight white males essentially are going to be part of another choir where more voices and kinds of people are coming to the floor.

“I think that there are some guys that are self-confident enough that it doesn’t bother them, but there are some guys, a lot of guys and probably some white women, for whom that is a very threatening thing,” Pitts said.

To sum it all up, he said the country is changing.

Pitts is a critically acclaimed column writer who gets his ideas mostly from the news, living, and observation. For him, column ideas must have a personal stake or investment in them.

His novel Grant Park has received praise. It deals with what the election of Barack Obama meant for us in terms of racial acceptance. He thinks that a lot of us were too optimistic that it was a lightning bolt of change that would bring centuries of racism to a sudden end.