Another election year, another purple map. Breakdowns like this also came out four years ago (and I believe in 2008, too.) They’re intended to be comforting, but they’re also somewhat misleading.
To help explain why, let me also talk about the other thing that’s going around: The idea that “Only ~25% of people voted for Trump.” OK, sure. That’s technically true.
But what’s also true is that only ~25% of people voted for Hillary–the one and only person who truly stood between him and the White House. That leaves 50% of the country that would probably insist all day that they’re not bigots, but they simply had other reasons why they didn’t bother to try to stop one of the worst in recent history from having enormous power.
Granted, a great deal of the low turnout was because of various forms of voter suppression, and fighting against that stuff should be priority one for the mid-term elections in two years. But a lot more of that was just plain apathy toward the very real danger that marginalized people are now in.
Take a look at that map again. Note how bright red it starts getting in some places. Now think about trying to drive through those places–or, even worse, live there–if you’re someone who would be subject to violent hatred. Ever dream of taking a cross-country trip? Enjoy going to small towns to check out little shops and cafes? Like wide-open spaces and country air? Guess what? You have a rather enormous amount of privilege to be able to do that without literally fearing for your life.
Even where I am here on the “left coast,” once you get out of the metro areas, things start getting scary, fast. Jackson County Oregon, home to hippie-haven Ashland, regularly goes red and Trump won it by nine points. Crossing the Cascades is taking a risk. Hell, even getting too far East in King County, WA things start getting dodgy.
There’s a reason marginalized people, especially people of color and out queer folk, tend to congregate in urban areas: They’re not safe anywhere else. They’re not exactly safe even in the city, but it’s far more likely than if they were living in rural Wyoming. When you’re cis, het and white, you have the freedom to go anywhere you’d like, and you’d probably even talk about how gosh-darn friendly some of those little towns are. Of course they are: You’re not one of the kinds of people they hate.
There are, to be fair, a lot of cis, het and white people in those rural areas who not only don’t agree with that hatred but won’t stand for it, and are making a concerted effort to change minds. I am deeply grateful for the people who do that, and I hope more are motivated to stand up for justice in the coming dangerous years.
But the reality is that only 25% of voting-age people in this country decided it was a priority to protect people targeted by hatred and violence, and the vast majority of those are concentrated in urban areas and college towns, particularly on the coasts. And even in these places, demographic breakdowns show that white people, particularly white men, still vote for the party of hate. Remember those polling maps that broke down how the vote would go if only certain groups voted? Only a tiny handful of states would stay blue if white men were the only ones allowed to vote. Even here in Washington, Hillary edged out Trump with white men by only two points, and you can bet that the vast majority of her support was in King County. If I go anywhere else in the state, chances are very good that any white man I meet probably voted against my civil rights. And should said white man decide to attack me, who would stand by my side against him? Probably not the ~50% of people there who didn’t bother voting.
What I’m getting at here is that marginalized people really aren’t safe in this country. Not because there’s a massive number of bigots (though let’s be honest: 60 million IS a massive number) but because there’s an even greater number of people who do jack all to actually stop it. We can’t fight bigotry if no one thinks it’s enough of a problem to do anything about.
Our country isn’t red or blue. It’s not purple. It’s yellow. It’s full of cowards who refuse to do a single thing to help people who are in danger, even if they don’t have to do anything more risky than voting. Don’t dare tell marginalized people that they’re safe here. We know better.