I’ve been listening to Nina Simone on endless repeat lately. I can’t turn it off and I can’t explain why. I feel an anxiety moving across our culture, like a collective shudder at the thought of what this country might become if our powder keg of a racial divide is ignited under a Donald Trump presidency.
Don’t doubt that this is a very real consideration, especially since he won Indiana last week.
Over cocktails and heavy metal, I recently spoke to a friend (a philosophy professor, no less) on the inevitable backlash to a Trumpian system. With candor, he offered a theory that carried an undeniable verisimilitude about the connection in American art and politics: The protest against Trump will ignite art and music.
The next great American novel, the next great protest poet, the next movement of musicians who give voice to the subjugated lower classes, will be borne out of protest to this man. Yet, in many respects, that conversation has already begun.
Take YG and Nipsey Hu$$le’s new song, “Fuck Donald Trump.”
Have a rally out in L.A., we gon' fuck it up
Home of the Rodney King riot, we don't give a fuck
Black students, ejected from your rally, what?
I'm ready to go right now, your racist ass did too much
I'm 'bout to turn Black Panther
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Voices of dissent will come loudest from artists who inhabit those positions that are under threat. Hip-hop and (some) metal will continue to be a relevant voice of political digression, as they should be. And while that may not be to your political taste, it is what makes us American — freedom of expression without censorship, the cornerstone of free speech.
If there was ever a time to make these predictions a part of our collective narrative, that time is now. A forecast of repeating history where minorities are subjugated seems inevitable under a Trump system. As voters abandon political discussion with alarming apathy, Trump’s rhetoric needs to be seriously questioned.
“I can’t even take what the man says seriously; he’s such a buffoon. So fucking hateful.”
— Barney Greenway, lead singer of Napalm Death at Houston's Numbers, April 1, 2016)
For example, “Make America Great Again.” In what way is it not great already? According to Trump, the forces robbing America of its purported “greatness” are divided by different hues of flesh. Those voices questioning Trump ring of voices like Nina Simone, Cesar Chavez, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the dozens of civil rights leaders who tried to leave a better world for their children.
Can't you see it
Can't you feel it
It's all in the air
I can't stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer
— Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddamn”
And while, in many respects they did, I fear whatever road they’ve been credited for paving will be rerouted in a world where our supreme leader thinks little of the common man, belittles the common man and in fact knows no common men. And, by that extension, despises the common man.
The country's black and Latino communities are concerned, and I am concerned for them. Maybe I shouldn’t say all this because I’m just a poor Southern white woman. Or maybe that’s the reason I should say it.
Perhaps we are best served in destroying political correctness for pragmatic discourse that deals with the threat of a Trump-led America. Let it not be forgotten that Trump’s first mention in The New York Times came in 1973, in an article detailing how he was discriminating against minority renters in Queens and Brooklyn.
This land is not your land. This land is not my land. This land comes with a lease, and a landlord who has the power to control and evict you. Forget the already trite comparison of Trump’s popularity to Hitler’s rise to power, but instead look to our own history.
As a candidate, Trump offers zero momentum toward progressive political evolution. His rhetoric on the stump has instead offered the opposite: validations of this country's very worst of social behaviors in racism, sexism and classism.
And while we can remind Trump supporters of his mockery of the disabled, his unapologetic misogyny and race-baiting tweets, those things will continue to be forgiven and dismissed by the same people who believe those attitudes in fact reflect a reality that is worth propagating.
You hate me don't you?
You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture
You're fuckin' evil I want you to recognize that I'm a proud monkey
You vandalize my perception but can't take style from me
And this is more than confession
— Kendrick Lamar, “The Blacker the Berry”
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What was at first seen as a joke or the most extreme level of trolling is now a serious possibility. Like it or not, the plausibility of a President Trump increases daily, making this election the most important in decades.
Just look to music: Racial tensions build while the right-wing masses mock Ferguson, dismiss Sandra Bland and acquiesce to building a wall. We need only look to the past to see how our country will deal with this: The ghettos will burn.
They will burn in frustration.
They will burn in protest.
They will burn when there is no point in being young, gifted and black.