Pen a Personal Essay to Each Other: Advice for Parents of Trans Teens
Reconstructing America Again

Whitelash and Blacklash

By Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf

Black Lives Matter protest against St. Paul police brutality
Black Lives Matter protest against St. Paul police brutality. Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue

Whitelash: from Thomas Norman DeWolf

A week has passed since a man who repeatedly espoused intolerance, racism, sexism, and white/male supremacy, and incited violence against those who opposed him, was elected President of the United States. I still can’t wrap my head around it.

The president-elect has now appointed the former head of Breitbart News as his chief strategist and senior counselor; a man and an organization seen as the flagship of the so-called alt-right; people who espouse extreme anti-Semitic and white supremacist beliefs. This appointment is consistent with his entire campaign: a confirmation that intolerance, bigotry, and misogyny will be key policy components of the new administration. I’ve felt for several years that we have been making progress in the United States regarding issues of race, gender and religious tolerance and acceptance; equality, justice, respect and peace for all people. I want to believe we still are.

But…the election….

When I woke up Wednesday morning, my first thoughts were of our two granddaughters who would soon wake up and prepare to go to school. How do I explain to them that the man who incessantly spouts vulgar words they aren’t allowed to use, who is a horrible role model for children and adults, will now become President of the United States and leader of the free world? I shared on my blog what we talked about: intolerance and kindness; fear and love; as well as the responsibilities we have to support our values, our nation, and each other.

As a white man, I believe it is critically important that I, and all white people, listen to those who have been marginalized, people the president-elect and many of his supporters have targeted. Listen to what Van Jones said about Surviving the Whitelash. Watch Dave Chappelle’s monologue on Saturday Night Live. Listen to teachers who have students from other countries who are terrified they will be deported. Read about horrible, abusive acts committed since the election—perpetrated by people emboldened by the president-elect. The level of fear about what may happen soon, and for many years after, is understandably quite high.

Speaking specifically to white people, it is important for us first to listen to those who feel most vulnerable now. Then ask what we can do to support them. How can I be an effective ally? What can I do to help prevent the implementation of policies and actions that create more harm; that not only don’t “make America great again,” but, in fact, are contrary to the ideals upon which this nation was founded and has never truly lived up to. Based on what we’ve witnessed over the past year, and in the past week, we must remain vigilant and committed to truth, justice, equality, and peace.

Blacklash: from Sharon Leslie Morgan 

I could not believe my eyes as I watched the election returns on television. I stayed awake until the sun came up trying process the realization that the unthinkable happened; that the forward strides generations of people struggled and died for went swirling down a drain of ignorance and bigotry. I spent the day in a stupor, barely able to get out of bed. A week later, the media and sycophants that helped propel Trump to victory are mobilizing to normalize his image. I am in shock as the travesty continues to unfold with the selection of a rogue’s cabinet of morally reprehensible hypocrites and race-baiters.

Like Tom, I was with my grandchildren during the days after the election. We had a similar conversation about human values, but mine was more focused on safety. The wave of terror that has been legitimized by Trump and is being exploited by his followers is a clear and present danger to the ones I love. My heart is heavy. I am sad, angry and afraid.

I get it that people are mad...mad at the system. I agree that the ENTIRE system is flawed and dysfunctional. But, Trump is NOT the solution. Rather, he is the embodiment of everything that is wrong. Anyone who thinks otherwise is guilty of cognitive dissonance that is apocalyptic. It is devastating to witness the fall of America into the hands of a megalomaniac on a mission to “make America great again” by undermining absolutely every principle of decency and fairness. Under Trump, things will get worse...much worse. The one-tenth of one percent will keep getting richer...phenomenally so. The rest of us will become even more impoverished through the loss of our social safety nets. The people who voted for him will be dismayed as he reveals his true nature as a man who cares nothing for anyone but himself.

I hope all right-thinking people will unite to resist and protest in every possible way. I am glad protesters are marching in the streets in cities across the land. I long to see a million women turn up in D.C. on inauguration day. I implore people to close their wallets and refuse to patronize Trump-owned businesses. I applaud sanctuary cities and pray they stand firm in their resolve to give refuge to undocumented immigrants. I need the ACLU and the SPLC to remain vigilant. I caution the Democratic Party to do some deep soul searching and find a strong voice of resistance in Congress. I pray Republicans will disavow the hateful rhetoric that put them in control. I beg that world leaders not give in to threats and intimidation. I urge EVERYONE to speak up and speak out.

Donald Trump is NOT my president. I cringe at the thought of the Trump family defiling the White House with their presence. I cannot imagine Melania Trump as the first lady of the United States. I feel as though we have experienced a coup d’état, and the only thing that will reverse it is a revolution.


Deep, authentic relationships with people we’ve been raised to see as “other” are key to understanding and reversing the impacts of racism and other forms of intolerance and inequity, and the misuse of power and privilege. For the two of us, there is solace in knowing that someone shares our beliefs and commitment to social justice. We have built a friendship over the years that helps sustain us. We can talk with and lean on each other in times of madness and sadness, as we did on election night and surely in days to come.

It is crucial that we take whatever action we can to support Black Lives Matter, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), and the many other organizations that champion the rights of women, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims, disabled people, and immigrants. The time is right for initiatives such as the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation effort that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will launch in 2017 in partnership with more than one hundred public, private, and non-profit organizations throughout the United States. We also urge you to get involved with organizations like Coming to the Table that “provides leadership, resources and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.” CTTT’s focus on establishing affiliate groups that create safe spaces for people to gather together to hear each other’s stories, to learn about each other, and to build relationships and understanding, is a critically important resource in the days and years ahead.

Our training in Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) teaches that humans, when confronted with danger, have an immediate impulse to either flee or fight. We can’t flee because this is our country. We live here. We have no choice but to endure whatever comes. But that does not mean we should go silently. Use your voice. Do what you can. We must not abrogate our responsibility to our children, grandchildren, and future generations. Through it all, we must realize how much we need each other. Now, more than ever, we must stand strong TOGETHER and not let the powers of darkness obliterate the light.


About the Authors 

Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolfSharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf are co-authors of Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade. Both are deeply involved in the work of Coming to the Table.