Or, The Ascent to Racial Empathy
52 percent of Catholics voted for President-Elect Donald Trump, and 60 percent of white Catholics voted for him.** Catholics, as a voting block, voted Trump into the White House.
The problem is that Trump microtargeted those persons—whom he called “forgotten”—with a racial identification and status anxiety that particularly resonated with white Christian males and their feelings about how they fit into (or don’t fit into) the American landscape.
Trump galvanized these voters with the American creation myth of the natural, divine rights of the white Christian male, and did so at the expense of all others—women, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled persons, immigrants, Jews, and Muslims.
While Trump does not identify as a white supremacist or a member of a white nationalist group, he certainly has embraced reactionary, racialized “attitudes” that challenge the 21st century narrative of American pluralism, equality, and social inclusion. One can look no further than Trump’s Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, whom helped create a media platform that gave a safe space to white nationalist intellectuals, conspiracy theorists, and anti-American propagandists.
Trump’s presidency and his administration is a symbol of the rise of this “attitude” and this attitude is explicitly racist. But at the same time this attitude is racially nuanced, because white Christians whom voted for Trump, particularly white Catholics, would certainly not self-identify as white supremacists or white nationalists. What they do feel, however, is a society that no longer gives deference to the American creation myth of the white Christian male.
Catholics must face the reality of the birth of a dominant cultural force, or “attitude” that puts the power, privilege and status of the white Christian male at the center of our society, and at the exclusion of the “other.”
And those “others” are persons of color. This reality is racial nationalism.
The USCCB and the American Catholic church largely ignored the rise of racial nationalism for a narrow dogmatic interest—the politics of right-to-life and the nomination of Supreme Court judges that might throw the legal question of abortion back to the states where some may decide to make it illegal.
But racism is anti-Catholic. Solidarity is the core of Catholic social teaching, and racism undermines that core teaching. Not to mention the fundamental theology of the Christian faith that says we are all created in the image of God.
The American Catholic church in the 20th century has left us invaluable theological resources that argue against racism. We must revive this 20th century tradition and build upon it so that we are able to challenge the rise of racial nationalism in the 21st.
In the face of Trump appeals to racial nationalism, the American Catholic church sat by idly. This cannot be the case during the next four years. The church must demand that Trump retract his hateful statements, but also retract his hateful advisors whom are racial nationalists committed on building up this anti-Christian movement.
Against Racial Nationalism, Or The Ascent to Racial Empathy will be published as a call to action and leadership in the Catholic church. What it sets out to do is first, critique the inexcusable inaction of the American Bishops this campaign season, and secondly, highlight the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching that denounces the social sin of racism. Lastly, it will build upon those Catholic social teaching documents against racism in order to pave a path forward for the American church to atone for its sins, and revive its spiritual authority to unequivocally challenge new forms of American racism emerging today and tomorrow.