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The 17 Most Important Things To Read About Trump's America

If you’re trying to process what happened two weeks ago, these essays are a good place to start.

Posted on November 22, 2016, at 7:21 p.m. ET

1. Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The End of the Postracial Myth," The New York Times

"What’s missing from the American conversation on race is the fact that people don’t have to hate black people or Muslims or Latinos to be uncomfortable with them, to be suspicious of them, to fear their ascension as an upheaval of the natural order of things. A smart demagogue plays to those fears under the guise of economic anxieties. Things not as good as you hoped? These folks are the reason."
Bill Wechter / AFP / Getty Images

"What’s missing from the American conversation on race is the fact that people don’t have to hate black people or Muslims or Latinos to be uncomfortable with them, to be suspicious of them, to fear their ascension as an upheaval of the natural order of things. A smart demagogue plays to those fears under the guise of economic anxieties. Things not as good as you hoped? These folks are the reason."

2. John Jeremiah Sullivan, "Morning-After Pill," The Paris Review

"For reasons I’ve never isolated successfully and that a competent therapist could probably help me escape from, I love this country. Not a little but with a bone-and-mother love. That line we used to say when we were kids around the flagpole, pledging allegiance to the republic? I still feel it. I still mean it. 'But don’t you,' I ask myself, 'despise nationalism?' Yes. If we were rational creatures, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If I had to make an apology for the contradiction, I’d say it’s not the nation I love. It’s the experiment. The one that started more than two and a half centuries ago. As the flag stands for the nation, the nation stands for the experiment. The experiment was designed to prove something specific: that a people could build a country not on blood ties but on a shared vision, on the values cherished by the highest traditions of the Enlightenment: personal freedom, social equality, religious and ethnic tolerance, and the rule of law. Anyone wanting to help with the experiment was and is welcome to join. The experiment has not yet proved abortive. But it is going astray, sharply and quickly. I don’t know a sane individual who doubts that. We absolutely cannot let it end."
The Paris Review

"For reasons I’ve never isolated successfully and that a competent therapist could probably help me escape from, I love this country. Not a little but with a bone-and-mother love. That line we used to say when we were kids around the flagpole, pledging allegiance to the republic? I still feel it. I still mean it. 'But don’t you,' I ask myself, 'despise nationalism?' Yes. If we were rational creatures, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If I had to make an apology for the contradiction, I’d say it’s not the nation I love. It’s the experiment. The one that started more than two and a half centuries ago. As the flag stands for the nation, the nation stands for the experiment. The experiment was designed to prove something specific: that a people could build a country not on blood ties but on a shared vision, on the values cherished by the highest traditions of the Enlightenment: personal freedom, social equality, religious and ethnic tolerance, and the rule of law. Anyone wanting to help with the experiment was and is welcome to join. The experiment has not yet proved abortive. But it is going astray, sharply and quickly. I don’t know a sane individual who doubts that. We absolutely cannot let it end."

3. Hallie Bateman, "How To Hold Anger and Summon Empathy," Lenny Letter

"We all have blind spots in different ways, because of our life experiences. There are moments when we're in positions of power, and moments when we're in less power and feel oppressed. It's everyone's responsibility to know their blind spots. This process begins by building a community where you can feel safe, and also challenged. This could be a group of women, a group of writers, or a group of people of all different backgrounds and ages. It's perfectly fine to have a tribe of your close friends, but especially now, it's important to open up to allies who have different opinions and backgrounds. And your tribe doesn't have to be one group. It can be many groups."
Hallie Bateman

"We all have blind spots in different ways, because of our life experiences. There are moments when we're in positions of power, and moments when we're in less power and feel oppressed. It's everyone's responsibility to know their blind spots. This process begins by building a community where you can feel safe, and also challenged. This could be a group of women, a group of writers, or a group of people of all different backgrounds and ages. It's perfectly fine to have a tribe of your close friends, but especially now, it's important to open up to allies who have different opinions and backgrounds. And your tribe doesn't have to be one group. It can be many groups."

4. Masha Gessen, "Autocracy: Rules for Survival," the New York Review of Books

"In the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself."
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

"In the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself."

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5. Marie Myung-Ok Lee, "In Trump's America, What Does the Future Hold for My Autistic Teenager?," Dame magazine

"As a parent ever alert to changes that may affect my son, the election results adds another fold in the complex and fragile origami that holds our son’s life together. Can we count on the Americans with Disabilities Act as any kind of protection in a looming 'law and order' Trumpian world?"
Mark Makela / Getty Images

"As a parent ever alert to changes that may affect my son, the election results adds another fold in the complex and fragile origami that holds our son’s life together. Can we count on the Americans with Disabilities Act as any kind of protection in a looming 'law and order' Trumpian world?"

6. Wesley Morris, "We The People Aren't Sure Who 'We' Are Anymore," New York Times

“'We' is conditional, contingent, up for debate. For ages, 'we' wasn’t more than one gender or race or sexual orientation. 'We' was white, straight and male. The great moral force of the 20th century and, so far, the 21st, was the fight to bring greater self-evidence to even more truths: suffrage, civil rights, marriage equality, religious pluralism, laws acknowledging the existence of the disabled. The euphoria of putting a black man in the White House became who 'we' were as much as the clamoring to put him out. Yes, we could. But expanding the meaning of 'we' is hard; a black president doesn’t ease that, and neither would a female one. And right now, white people tired of the ongoing battle for all manners of equality, of civility, appear to have switched sides."
Javier Jaen / The New York Times

“'We' is conditional, contingent, up for debate. For ages, 'we' wasn’t more than one gender or race or sexual orientation. 'We' was white, straight and male. The great moral force of the 20th century and, so far, the 21st, was the fight to bring greater self-evidence to even more truths: suffrage, civil rights, marriage equality, religious pluralism, laws acknowledging the existence of the disabled. The euphoria of putting a black man in the White House became who 'we' were as much as the clamoring to put him out. Yes, we could. But expanding the meaning of 'we' is hard; a black president doesn’t ease that, and neither would a female one. And right now, white people tired of the ongoing battle for all manners of equality, of civility, appear to have switched sides."

7. Valeria Luiselli, "This Is How The World Ends?," LitHub

"This grieving period is diffuse and confusing. It’s not sustained by the absolute, concrete reality of a death. It does not have the irremediable quality of an end that is already upon us, even though the electoral result is irremediable. It feels, perhaps, like a future mourning, like a mourning for the future. As if the future had suddenly evaporated and, with it, our capacity for understanding or even wanting the present."
Mark Makela / Getty Images

"This grieving period is diffuse and confusing. It’s not sustained by the absolute, concrete reality of a death. It does not have the irremediable quality of an end that is already upon us, even though the electoral result is irremediable. It feels, perhaps, like a future mourning, like a mourning for the future. As if the future had suddenly evaporated and, with it, our capacity for understanding or even wanting the present."

8. Jessica Hopper, "The Silver Lining Myth," MTV

"When people suggest that punk, or rock, or music itself, will finally 'start reacting,' what is really being said is that things will be so bad that straight white people will start noticing and doing something because the floodwaters have reached their door. People have been singing their struggle since the dawn of recorded music in America; we just chose not to listen, or got tangled up in some bullshit hand-wringing over whose music was 'real,' whose experiences we were willing to take in."
David Mcnew / Getty Images

"When people suggest that punk, or rock, or music itself, will finally 'start reacting,' what is really being said is that things will be so bad that straight white people will start noticing and doing something because the floodwaters have reached their door. People have been singing their struggle since the dawn of recorded music in America; we just chose not to listen, or got tangled up in some bullshit hand-wringing over whose music was 'real,' whose experiences we were willing to take in."

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9. Mark Greif, "No President," n+1

"Insofar as the polity is its citizens and not the State, the most important thing individual Americans can do is to deny shelter, aid, collaboration, agreement, and acceptance of Trump. Not accept, not adjust, not adapt, not appease, not conciliate. There is something sinister in the media’s 'ten-step plans' to adjust to a Trump President-elect, as if this were a personal upset needing therapy rather than a question of the political system. I regret that Hillary Clinton conceded quickly and that Barack Obama assured a smooth transition. It is always better not to seat tyrants, not to have an inauguration, not to make it that far, than to try to undo things once a tyrant has hold of the levers of violence. The important thing with a tyrant is not to seat him at all—even at the expense of unfairness to an individual who might have become better than his word."
Kena Betancur / AFP / Getty Images

"Insofar as the polity is its citizens and not the State, the most important thing individual Americans can do is to deny shelter, aid, collaboration, agreement, and acceptance of Trump. Not accept, not adjust, not adapt, not appease, not conciliate. There is something sinister in the media’s 'ten-step plans' to adjust to a Trump President-elect, as if this were a personal upset needing therapy rather than a question of the political system. I regret that Hillary Clinton conceded quickly and that Barack Obama assured a smooth transition. It is always better not to seat tyrants, not to have an inauguration, not to make it that far, than to try to undo things once a tyrant has hold of the levers of violence. The important thing with a tyrant is not to seat him at all—even at the expense of unfairness to an individual who might have become better than his word."

10. N. Turkuler Isiksel, "Prepare For Regime Change, Not Policy Change," Dissent

"Those of us who witnessed illiberal populist movements take hold in Turkey, Russia, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, and elsewhere are watching the election of Donald Trump with a particularly acute sense of foreboding. With this difference: unlike the United States, none of these countries have ever stood out as a beacon of liberty. To many Americans, this means that however autocratic his leanings, Trump’s designs will fail. But this is exactly the wrong conclusion to draw. It is precisely such overconfidence in the United States’ long and illustrious tradition of liberty that could lull the American public into a false sense of security and facilitate the rapid destruction of that very tradition."
Mark Makela / Getty Images

"Those of us who witnessed illiberal populist movements take hold in Turkey, Russia, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, and elsewhere are watching the election of Donald Trump with a particularly acute sense of foreboding. With this difference: unlike the United States, none of these countries have ever stood out as a beacon of liberty. To many Americans, this means that however autocratic his leanings, Trump’s designs will fail. But this is exactly the wrong conclusion to draw. It is precisely such overconfidence in the United States’ long and illustrious tradition of liberty that could lull the American public into a false sense of security and facilitate the rapid destruction of that very tradition."

11. David Remnick, "Obama Reckons With A Trump Presidency," The New Yorker

"For tens of millions of Americans, Trump was unthinkable as President. It came to be conceded that he had 'tuned into something': the frequencies of white rural life, the disaffection of people who felt overwhelmed by the forces of globalization, who felt unheard and condescended to by the coastal establishment. Yet Trump himself, by liberal consensus, was a huckster mogul of the social-media age, selling magic potions laced with poison. How could he possibly win?"
Win Mcnamee / Getty Images

"For tens of millions of Americans, Trump was unthinkable as President. It came to be conceded that he had 'tuned into something': the frequencies of white rural life, the disaffection of people who felt overwhelmed by the forces of globalization, who felt unheard and condescended to by the coastal establishment. Yet Trump himself, by liberal consensus, was a huckster mogul of the social-media age, selling magic potions laced with poison. How could he possibly win?"

12. Adam Serwer, "The Battle for Pluralism," The Atlantic

"Hillary Clinton is no Lincoln––she was a deeply flawed candidate with a record of questionable judgement, particularly on matters of war. But unlike her opponent, she accepted the principle of pluralism that should be the minimum standard for the office. And when voters of color flocked to the polls for her, they, like the black soldiers at the crater, were defending a core American ideal that has yet to truly include them. No, their sacrifice was not as great. But what they tried to defend was no less important."
Library of Congress

"Hillary Clinton is no Lincoln––she was a deeply flawed candidate with a record of questionable judgement, particularly on matters of war. But unlike her opponent, she accepted the principle of pluralism that should be the minimum standard for the office. And when voters of color flocked to the polls for her, they, like the black soldiers at the crater, were defending a core American ideal that has yet to truly include them. No, their sacrifice was not as great. But what they tried to defend was no less important."

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13. Mira Jacob, "Here's What I'm Telling My Brown Son About Trump's America," BuzzFeed Reader

"I cannot take another no right now. I have lost people all my life to nos, and this year the pace upped significantly. A fan of my novel scolded me for writing about race, saying I had overstepped my place as a writer, as if she were the arbitrator of it. A colleague eager to prove himself on the 'right side' of racism threw a tantrum and ended our acquaintance when I suggested my life looked different than his imagining of it. A good friend talking to me about the Black Lives Matter movement tried to explain how race in America really works to me, as if I do not live it, and then told me my thoughts were all in my head anyway, as if that is not generally the case with thoughts. All of these people were white. All of them felt galled by my not reassuring them of their goodness at every turn in the conversation. But the truth is, I have no more reassurance left for my white friends and family. I am saving it all for you."
Mira Jacob

"I cannot take another no right now. I have lost people all my life to nos, and this year the pace upped significantly. A fan of my novel scolded me for writing about race, saying I had overstepped my place as a writer, as if she were the arbitrator of it. A colleague eager to prove himself on the 'right side' of racism threw a tantrum and ended our acquaintance when I suggested my life looked different than his imagining of it. A good friend talking to me about the Black Lives Matter movement tried to explain how race in America really works to me, as if I do not live it, and then told me my thoughts were all in my head anyway, as if that is not generally the case with thoughts. All of these people were white. All of them felt galled by my not reassuring them of their goodness at every turn in the conversation. But the truth is, I have no more reassurance left for my white friends and family. I am saving it all for you."

14. Sarah Kendzior, "We Are Heading Into Dark Times," The Correspondent

"I am writing this not for those who oppose him, but for those who support him, because Trump and his backers are going to hurt you too.I live in Missouri, now a bright red state, alongside you. I have faced the same economic misery as you, struggling to stay afloat since the recession, which never ended though many falsely claimed it did. I have the same anxiety over crime and racial tension and corrupt leadership as you. I am an independent, not a Democrat or a Republican, because I am as disappointed in political parties as you."
Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images

"I am writing this not for those who oppose him, but for those who support him, because Trump and his backers are going to hurt you too.

I live in Missouri, now a bright red state, alongside you. I have faced the same economic misery as you, struggling to stay afloat since the recession, which never ended though many falsely claimed it did. I have the same anxiety over crime and racial tension and corrupt leadership as you. I am an independent, not a Democrat or a Republican, because I am as disappointed in political parties as you."

15. Teju Cole, "A Time for Refusal," New York Times

"Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else. This is not a process that began a week or month or year ago. It did not begin with drone assassinations, or with the war on Iraq. Evil has always been here. But now it has taken on a totalitarian tone."
Albrecht Dürer’s “The Rhinoceros,” 1515 / The National Gallery of Art

"Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else. This is not a process that began a week or month or year ago. It did not begin with drone assassinations, or with the war on Iraq. Evil has always been here. But now it has taken on a totalitarian tone."

16. Ijeoma Oluo, "Questioning Safety Pin Solidarity Revealed Why I Can't Trust White People," The Establishment

"So no, I won’t trust anyone just because they are wearing a safety pin. No, it won’t give me any comfort. I will trust actions, nothing more, nothing less. I wear my blackness every single day, and people don’t have to look for it to target me. Don’t make me look for your symbol of support. Show it every day in your words and deeds. Yes, it’s nice to tell marginalized populations that you won’t hurt them, but it’s even nicer to make sure that sexist White Supremacists know that they are not safe attacking me. Because we are being attacked right now, in public, in broad daylight. A small symbol that so many white people have been eager to point out is 'work friendly' is not enough. How about you make a few privileged people uncomfortable at work? Because people of color, trans people, undocumented people, disabled people—we’re uncomfortable every day. Hell, we’re more than uncomfortable, we’re dying."
Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

"So no, I won’t trust anyone just because they are wearing a safety pin. No, it won’t give me any comfort. I will trust actions, nothing more, nothing less. I wear my blackness every single day, and people don’t have to look for it to target me. Don’t make me look for your symbol of support. Show it every day in your words and deeds. Yes, it’s nice to tell marginalized populations that you won’t hurt them, but it’s even nicer to make sure that sexist White Supremacists know that they are not safe attacking me. Because we are being attacked right now, in public, in broad daylight. A small symbol that so many white people have been eager to point out is 'work friendly' is not enough. How about you make a few privileged people uncomfortable at work? Because people of color, trans people, undocumented people, disabled people—we’re uncomfortable every day. Hell, we’re more than uncomfortable, we’re dying."

17. Hannah Giorgis, "How White People Can Support People of Color Right Now," BuzzFeed Reader

"Ask open-ended questions about race and stereotypes. Feel free to share how your own thought process has evolved and why; admit to not having all the answers. Be frank when someone says something fucked up. You have far more leverage with other white people than people of color do."
KL Ricks for BuzzFeed News

"Ask open-ended questions about race and stereotypes. Feel free to share how your own thought process has evolved and why; admit to not having all the answers. Be frank when someone says something fucked up. You have far more leverage with other white people than people of color do."

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