Are We Nearing White Supremacy’s Extinction Burst?
An extinction burst – when negative behaviours intensify just before they end for good. This may apply to asshole cats and also the collapse of white supremacy.
I have a cat. She’s a bitch. I love her, but she’s a bitch. In the first several months after we got her she had some bad behaviours, the worst of which was waking us up between 3 and 5 in the morning. My boyfriend Brooks consulted the Internet and figured out how to get the bad behaviours to stop. We had to completely ignore them and endure her pouncing on our heads at whatever awful hour. During the last week or two before she stopped, she acted like an intense asshole. We were warned that during this part of the process the behaviours would intensify right before they ended for good. This is called the extinction burst.
When Obama was elected president and all the deep-seated, institutionalized racism, sexism etc. in American culture that hid in plain sight finally bubbled to the surface, I began to imagine the white male supremacists and their proxies gathering in their bunkers for their last stand. And then a day after Trump’s election I finally had the terminology to describe what my anthropological brain was observing. White supremacy is experiencing its extinction burst.
My cat analogy ends there, though. Obviously I’m not going to handle the extinction period of white supremacy by ignoring it. And it will definitely last longer than a week or two, and could last longer than four years for all I know. But years of studying monkeys and human behaviour as an anthropologist has stored terabytes of behavioural data in my brain, which gets automatically calculated and applied as I watch the world.
The probability that white supremacy’s dominating hold on our culture will become extinct in my lifetime is high.
The hardest part of the election’s outcome is sorting through all the cognitive dissonance. When it comes to people who aren’t my cat, I can’t control anyone’s beliefs or actions in response to Trump’s election. But, as Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
I have control over my beliefs and my actions, and I have decided to adapt.
I can’t hate Trump supporters. I’m too empathetic. Yeah, I think the rich and elite who support him have a nice warm place in hell waiting for them, but I’m not going to concentrate my efforts on them. When it comes to the middle, working, and damn poor classes that support Trump, that’s where I can act. A lot of people suffer from a lack of financial stability and education, even in the middle class. No one sits well with uncertainty, and knowledge defeats fear.
In Kentucky, there are a lot of great nonprofits that help feed and educate people, many of which are in Louisville and Lexington. Since those two counties were the only blue spots in the election, I decided to find an organization outside those cities. I chose to donate monthly to the Women’s Crisis Centre in Covington, KY.
I was definitely complacent before the election. I was going to leave it to Bernie or Hillary to fix everything while I continued on with my life. But because Trump got elected, it placed the OVERWHELMING responsibility to work on the country’s problems on OUR — the people’s — shoulders. It’s an intense weight that many of us feel crushed by right now.
Diversity is trending in the mainstream and the markets are capitalizing on it. In games, toys, and most products, people are working on including everyone. Where I currently work, many major companies are requesting online courses on diversity in the workplace and why that’s important. In the writing field, the majority of agents and publications are searching for and accepting diverse authors and stories, specifically stating they are tired of the same old narrative. The counter force to Trump and his supporters is a living, healthy, progressive organism.
To keep the engines of change barrelling through white supremacy’s extinction burst, I’ve decided to donate whatever I can spare to organizations that feed and educate people who are lacking these much-needed resources. I want to think carefully about how, as an individual, I can act in response to whatever shitty consequences occur during Trump’s presidency. And of course, since I am a writer, I am going to write. A LOT.
My secret optimism
I’ve been hiding my optimism. No one wants to see it right now, and I get it. People need time to process and determine their part in this progressive push through white supremacy’s extinction burst. Especially those who are surrounded by Trump supporters.
I shared my thoughts with someone recently who is on the same side of the election as me, and he said, “I would like to believe you, but this is how Hitler came to power.” I thought of my response too late. What I wanted to say is: Yeah, we may see history repeating itself, but since it already happened, we know the future and therefore can intervene to change it (like Doc Brown said in Back to the Future III).
Recently, a Trump supporter screamed fatphobic, misogynistic things in my friend’s face on the street and walked away. The woman next to her at the bus stop wished her well and another woman she didn’t know hugged her. The data says that’s two acts of kindness against one act of hate.
Good outnumbers hate, regardless of the most recent election’s outcome.