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A common adage in politics is that “elections have consequences.” It’s a catchy aphorism, but it masks the relationship between a voter’s candidate choices and the personal fallout for that voter. What if you could rail against “big government” and still feed at its trough? What if you could complain about the federal debt and then drive it up with gigantic tax cuts? What if you could be a single-issue voter on guns or abortion, but then, when the economy sours under the party you supported, you still reap the benefits of the social safety net that the party opposes?
Politicians often extoll the common sense of running government like a business. Indeed, business acumen was arguably the principal qualification of then-candidate Donald Trump to become president of the United States. Likening government to a business, however, invites another analogy: voters as employers. Employers are constrained by practical and legal considerations in choosing employees. For example, it’s almost impossible to imagine a board of directors selecting Donald Trump as its CEO after the revelation of the Access Hollywood tape on which he boasted of grabbing women by their genitalia without their consent. The reputational and legal exposure for the business would be too great. Yet American voters elected Trump as the nation’s CEO.
If postmortems of the 2016 US presidential election tell us anything, it's that many voters discriminate on the basis of race, which raises an important question: in a society that outlaws racial discrimination in employment, housing, and jury selections, should voters be permitted to racially discriminate in selecting a candidate for public office? In Whitelash, Terry Smith argues that such racialized decision-making is unlawful and that remedies exist to deter this reactionary behavior. Using evidence of race-based voting in the 2016 presidential election, Smith deploys legal analogies to demonstrate how courts can decipher when groups of voters have been impermissibly influenced by race, and impose appropriate remedies. This groundbreaking work should be read by anyone interested in how the legal system can re-direct American democracy away from the ongoing electoral scourge that many feared 2016 portended.
Election night, Tuesday, November 8, 2016, seemed interminable for many Americans. It certainly was for me. I was scheduled to teach an election law class the following day, during which my students and I would discuss the legal implications of the presidential and congressional elections. But before that, I had to fulfill a commitment to speak to a high school audience about the election. I was to address students at Chicago’s Legal Prep Charter Academy first thing Wednesday morning—a daunting task because I had been up all night puzzling over election returns that had elevated a reality television show host, Donald Trump, to the most powerful position in the world.
It’s extraordinary to behold: The leader of the free world, on foreign soil, inciting xenophobia. Then again, whitelash has no boundaries—both literally and figuratively speaking. The synchronicity of white people’s rebellion against immigration worldwide may appear coincidental. It is not. Postindustrial distress, magnified by the Great Recession of 2008, characterizes the economies of America and Europe, among other regions. From Brexit to the election of Donald Trump to the installation of his self-professed clone in Brazil, right-wing populism has become the vector of choice for whites’ expression of their unease with the current state of their societies.
According to John B. Judis in The Populist Explosion, a key feature of this brand of populism is that it “champion[s] the people against an elite that they accuse of coddling a third group,” such as immigrants or Muslims Yet the history of whites debasing racial and religious outsiders long predates any supposed disillusionment with modern capitalism.
If all political power derives from the people, then the people must ultimately be responsible for the discriminatory exercise of that power. Thus, while Chapter 7 explained the complicity and legal fault of candidates and political parties, this chapter examines the legal culpability of voters themselves and proposes legal remedies and deterrents.
In an ideal world, Congress would pass a law outlawing racial discrimination in voting pursuant to its enforcement powers under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and the law would impose penalties for its violation. Whitelashers, however, hide in the privacy of the ballot box, casting their vote at least in part based on their resistance to progress by people who look different than they do. This privacy—to say nothing of First Amendment concerns—makes an edict prohibiting racial discrimination impractical.
It’s highly unusual for a sitting president’s truthfulness to be questioned as pointedly by members of his own party as President Trump’s has. Then again, perhaps no president has expressed as conflicted a relationship with the truth as Trump. In an unintended spoof of George Washington’s fabled “I cannot tell a lie,” Trump has explained, “I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth. And sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that’s different or there’s a change, but I always like to be truthful.”
Donald Trump ran the most racially incendiary presidential campaign in modern times. So, it’s odd enough that he would transparently misrepresent his performance among black voters: he took 8 percent of the black vote in 2016 to Hillary Clinton’s 88 percent. But it’s shocking that he would thank blacks, who were denied the right to vote for much of American history, for choosing to stay home and not exercise that right. It is incriminating because the Trump campaign—whether in conjunction with Russian nationals or independently, we do not yet know—admitted to attempting to suppress the black vote. Said one senior Trump campaign official to Bloomberg News shortly before the election, “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” identifying African Americans as one of its targets.
Donald Trump won 58 percent of the white vote to Hillary Clinton’s 37 percent, a record-shattering 21 points, surpassing Ronald Reagan’s 20-point margin in 1984. These exit polling numbers nearly mirror a poll taken almost two months before the election. When asked whether they thought Trump was a “racist,” 54 percent of whites responded no, while 37 percent said yes. With contortionist logic, while 54 percent of whites believed that Trump was not a racist, 54 percent also believed that Trump “appeals to bigotry.” It is implausible that there was no overlap among these 54-percenters, and it is equally implausible that both statements could be true at the same time. As sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has paradoxically observed, how can there be racism—here, appeals to bigotry—without racists?
In Aman v. Cort Furniture Rental Corp., a federal court of appeals found the following remarks directed at black employees to reveal discriminatory intent: “another one,” “one of them,” “that one in there,” and “all of you.”2 None of these terms even mention race, but, as the court explained, “while discriminatory conduct persists, violators have learned not to leave the proverbial ‘smoking gun’ behind. As one court has recognized, [d]efendants of even minimal sophistication will neither admit discriminatory animus [n]or leave a paper trail demonstrating it.” Thus, in the court’s view, we don’t need to hear openly racist statements to know that racism exists.
It is difficult to pinpoint when the latest round of judicial whitelash began, but the 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke is perhaps as good a starting place as any. In Bakke, Justice Powell, announcing the U.S. Supreme Court’s judgment, ignored the history of how various European immigrant groups—whether Jews, Irish, or Italians—have been absorbed into the white race regardless of their previous categorization. Justice Powell equated their history with that of African Americans and used this ahistorical comparison to invalidate an affirmative action program at the University of California School of Medicine at Davis. Save for the judicial trappings, there is little difference between Justice Powell’s views and the sentiment of a supermajority of Trump supporters in 2018 that “if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.”.
OBJECTIVES/SPECIFIC AIMS: Our overall goals are: 1. To engage, inform and educate children and families on clinical research and increase their understanding of the goals and process of participation in research studies/clinical trials; 2. To Increase participation of children, especially those who are disproportionately underrepresented, in clinical research in the Western New York region and beyond. METHODS/STUDY POPULATION: The University at Buffalo Clinical Translational Science Institute conducted meetings in schools, community coalitions while holding focus groups with children with chronic conditions and their families and community health workers to identify the general perceptions of research. These conversations then informed the development of a children’s activity book about research. Completed in 2017, our “Sofia Learns about Research” activity book presents research in a non-threatening way by presenting a child with asthma who walks through the process of learning about research, being recruited and participating in research. The book explains basic concepts about research coupled with fun games and the possibility to color. Over 1,000 copies of the activity book have been disseminated to second to fourth graders via afterschool programs, community events, and medical practice waiting rooms. Recipients of the book are directed to short surveys to provide feedback on the book and their perception of research. The parents are also given the option to sign-up for the Buffalo Research Registry in order to be contacted about research opportunities. RESULTS/ANTICIPATED RESULTS: Response has been very positive, with parents and community participants saying “It’s not just a storybook. The activities keep kids entertained while learning new concepts.” In children informally polled via a brief questionnaire pre and post story reading at an afterschool program, there was an increase in those interested in participating in a research study. In a recent event sponsored by the CTSI Community Engagement Core and other UB organizations, a group of fifty children from diverse background colored with enthusiasm several activity pages and obtained stickers for their “Research Passport”. In a recent teacher focus group we learned that the book content may fit the Science Curriculum and plan on reading sessions in inner-city schools after approval from the district. A pilot reading activity in a Montessori program revealed that second grade children were able to understand and complete the activities in the book. We are obtaining further feedback form teachers and parents in order to design simple protocol to be submitted for IRB approval to obtain more formal feed-back and outcomes in future readings. In parents and focus groups several respondents have indicated its relevance to older populations and English-language learners as well. The book has recently been translated into Spanish and Arabic through a partnership with the International Institute of Buffalo, which “welcomes, connects and empowers the foreign born”. Some of the book’s images have been modified in order to be sensitive to the readers’ culture and we are in the process of collaborating with the International Institute to disseminate it to their clients. We are in the initial phase of planning a mobile application which we anticipate will significantly enhance dissemination. DISCUSSION/SIGNIFICANCE OF IMPACT: This presentation will describe the development process, the underpinning concepts and our plans and current progress towards a more formal community and school dissemination and evaluation. This project was made possible by Team Science in that the expertise of a millennial pre-medical student and an anthropologist with high community involvement was coupled with that of a senior clinical translational researcher. Moreover, much research and attention was devoted to the creation of images that are culturally inclusive. To this end, with the exception of the cover page, we have intentionally created the book in black and white so that the child may use his/her imagination and color the way he/she sees the protagonists and the environment. Great attention was devoted to names of the protagonists with the names of the two main characters being among the most common in the world in numerous countries. Also, the book lends itself to a mobile application which will allow the reader to change colors and shapes of the protagonists to fit his/her cultural background. We are in the early planning stages and will share our progress as part of this presentation. We have strived to disseminate the book with a broad approach in our community. This phase is being followed by a more formal dissemination phase via libraries, schools and community events. This part of the project exemplifies the challenge between wanting to disseminate the book broadly while obtaining formal feedback and outcomes in compliance with regulations protecting the anonymity and/or confidentiality of children and families. Therefore for this second phase of dissemination IRB approval is being sought in order to collect more quantitative and qualitative data on the impact of the book. We have already conducted a focus group with teachers to overcome the challenges around informed consent, especially in the public school system. Our initial findings suggest this resource will improve knowledge and perception of research among children and their families. To our knowledge most of the materials explaining research to children are geared to older children and are often sponsored by pharmaceutical companies for a specific trial. If successful, this book can have a profound impact in reaching out to children outside of the research and medical environments, with the ultimate goal of increasing the child’s and family’s willingness to participate in clinical research and clinical trials.