The very day Trump issued his executive order banning racial “stereotyping and scapegoating” in diversity training, he was scapegoating Ilhan Omar, the Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, for her Somali refugee background. “She’s telling us how to run our country,” he told his supporters at a rally. “How did you do where you came from? How is your country doing?”
Because of this history, attacks on “wokeness” or “political correctness” from Trump can only backfire. Not only will they reinforce “woke” leftists in their conviction that their only opposition comes from racists and bigots; more importantly, they will alienate many liberals and moderates who dislike “political correctness” but dislike Trumpism even more and don’t want to be in the same camp with racists. (And that’s not to mention the hypocrisy of Trump posturing as a warrior for free speech while applauding physical violence against journalists or advocating prison for protesters who burn the American flag.)
There are other ways having Trump as president is a boon to “wokeness.” For one, it lends some credibility to claims that white male supremacy in America remains deeply entrenched. (I know people online who lurched from center-left to far left after 2016, claiming their eyes have been opened to the truth about racism and patriarchy. I believe they are wrong — the reasons for Trump’s election victory were far more complex—but such a trend does exist.) No less important, given the multifaceted disaster of this administration, complaints about college radicals, diversity consultants, and left-wing bloggers and Twitter activists are sure to be seen by many as a case of misplaced priorities.