On November 9, 2016, CNN commentator Van Jones described Donald Trump’s nearly solidified victory to become president of the United States as a “whitelash.”
“This was a whitelash against a changing country, it was a whitelash against a black president, in part, and that’s the part where the pain comes,” he said.
“Whitelash” is a unique and poignant word: It signifies a definite and determinant action in retaliation for the mobility of blackness that is an assertion of white supremacy. There are clear and distinct racial underpinnings that give voice to some of the reasons behind Trump’s election and also prove that this is not the first example of a whitelash in American history.
If we think about how and why whitelashes happen, we must begin with the invention of white supremacy, an ideology and structure that views white people as a dominant, superior race. This ideology was used to mobilize, justify, and create racialized slavery, which was used in the United States, with origins stemming from European colonizers, including the Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish.