Abstract

This article considers what caused the resurgence of white nationalist rage, resentment, and fears before and after Donald Trump was elected to office. For the white working class, declining economic prospects for mobility were sutured to fears of a dying whiteness. The political right used information tactics that normalized a conspiratorial, “post-truth” worldview. For white middle- and upper-class Americans who have been thriving economically since the 1980s, the fears of a dying whiteness were overwhelmingly projected as future possibilities. Such emotional investments in defending whiteness forged a cross-class identification with Trump's white nationalist agenda. At the same time, racial and environmental justice movements made other white Americans increasingly aware that they might be dying of whiteness—a ontological and materialist system that is leading to a collective process of social degradation and ecological self-destruction. The essay speculates on what might motivate white Americans to join a broader divestment from systemic racism and to create a new ontology based on atonement and reparations.

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