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If you ever wondered what Chimamanda Adichie thought of the outcome of the recently concluded US election, you can stop guessing.

In a recent essay published in The New Yorker, Adichie writes: “The election of Donald Trump has flattened the poetry in America’s founding philosophy: the country born from an idea of freedom is to be governed by an unstable, stubbornly uninformed, authoritarian demagogue.”

The essay is urgent and powerful. Adichie is not just criticizing Trump and the culture responsible for his enthronement. She outlines what in her opinion needs to be done to move forward.

For Adichie, Trump’s win is symptomatic of a broader political context that nurtures racism and misogyny. This problem, she suggests, is actually observable at the level of language. Adichie is been very much the writer when she observes that the language of American political discourse implicated in a broader context that sustains “overt racism, glaring misogyny, [and] anti-intellectualism.”

She calls on journalists and political influencers to pay attention to the way they talk about things. The words and images used to bring issues into the political arena for discussion matter. In the quotes we’ve selected below, Adichie offers a few pointed suggestions on how to reevaluate the terms on which conversations around issues are carried out.

Here are a few quotes:

A day after the election, I heard a journalist on the radio speak of the vitriol between Obama and Trump. No, the vitriol was Trump’s. Now is the time to burn false equivalencies forever. Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not “balanced” journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one.

Now is the time to talk about what we are actually talking about. “Climate contrarian” obfuscates. “Climate-change denier” does not. And because climate change is scientific fact, not opinion, this matters.

Now is the time to discard that carefulness that too closely resembles a lack of conviction. The election is not a “simple racism story,” because no racism story is ever a “simple” racism story, in which grinning evil people wearing white burn crosses in yards. A racism story is complicated, but it is still a racism story, and it is worth parsing. Now is not the time to tiptoe around historical references. Recalling Nazism is not extreme; it is the astute response of those who know that history gives both context and warning.

Now is the time to elevate the art of questioning. Is the only valid resentment in America that of white males? If we are to be sympathetic to the idea that economic anxieties lead to questionable decisions, does this apply to all groups? Who exactly are the élite?

Now is the time to frame the questions differently. If everything remained the same, and Hillary Clinton were a man, would she still engender an overheated, outsized hostility? Would a woman who behaved exactly like Trump be elected? Now is the time to stop suggesting that sexism was absent in the election because white women did not overwhelmingly vote for Clinton. Misogyny is not the sole preserve of men.

Now is the time to be precise about the meanings of words. Trump saying “They let you do it” about assaulting women does not imply consent, because consent is what happens before an act.

Read full article here.


Post image by Michael Vadon via Flickr.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

5 Responses to “Chimamanda Adichie’s Essay on Trump is Actually a Lesson in Political Discourse” Subscribe

  1. Kasanda Malemba 2016/12/12 at 00:16 #

    Chimamanda is being amazing as always. Her thoughts on Trump are nothing but true. I wish we had great minds arguing on African events such as what is happening in Gambia. All our writers and intellectuals are wooed by the West, and the continent is left with little or nothing.

  2. William 2016/12/12 at 01:10 #

    While there is no denying that Trump’s presence resonated with racists and other such figures. I think it is a bit dismissive to credit his election with success based only on hate. Look at Nigeria. We elected a version of Trump (Buhari) just because so many people felt we needed ‘change’. Buhari has publicly stated his wife belongs in the kitchen, he is a known champion of Sharia and let’s not forget; an ex-military head of state with a record of authoritarian behavior including shutting up the press and jailing his critics. Yet, in numbers people lined up to vote for him. While like America, there was a clear tribal (racist) bias, a lot of Nigerians, including some our intellectuals (mostly the younger ones) championed him not because he was better, but because people were tired of PDP and found his message of fighting the corrupt establishment appealing (not so different from Trump). I think the constant ignoring of the needs of people that feel neglected and expecting logical moral reasoning over emotional reactions is a tall ask. We cannot expect these people to make decisions from the seat of comfort we are afforded or expect their priorities to mirror ours when our problems and conditions are different. If Buhari actually solved the corruption problem in Nigeria, I bet you overall, we would give him a pass for everything else because that is a priority in this country. In America where a lot of people are relatively economically okay and corruption is not endemic, social progress can now become a priority. Social problems are always multilayered and it is important to consider so many sides instead on hinging on the part we are most emotionally invested in. Humans by nature are vested first in self-interest, then after that is satisfied, we can afford to care for others around us. Nigeria or America, that nature is constant for the majority.

  3. Kasanda Malemba 2016/12/12 at 01:16 #

    This is eloquently well said, William. I couldn’t agree more with you. Underlining that humans are the same no matter the country, and that we usually respond the same way to patterns is something we sometimes forget.

  4. Abubakar-Sadiq 2016/12/12 at 02:54 #

    While I am tempted to agree with Adichie on Racism and Misogyny being the pivot of the last American elections – she misses it if she believes these attitudes are only recent or even by equating both. The facts of Racism and Misogyny are as old as America itself and are going nowhere soon. Another problem is when they are equated in scale and complexity – a disservice when both end up in the same sentence or conversation: it neither progresses the argument nor helps the issue.
    My personal fear for Adichie is the amount of attention shes been receiving in mainstream media – she may yet come to know how fickle and unforgiving her new found ‘home’ is.
    @ William: I dare to say that there are very little parallels between Buhari and Trump. Chronologically, ‘Trump should be a version of Buhari’ and not vice versa but this is missing the point. The context and personalities are different – I am tempted to think that trump shares more in common with Hilary than Buhari…the true red flag was that these were the top contenders for the most powerful position in the world; it speaks volumes of the nature of the US and its current state.
    @Kasanda: I wish also that we had great minds arguing on African events; Gambia and elsewhere on the continent. The best of Africa ends up outside Africa West….to be considered 2nd class – the continent is left with little or nothing….this is the curse of Colonization.

  5. Mar 2016/12/12 at 10:05 #

    I think Ms. Adichie is really spot-on about Trump, and I am glad she has not abandoned Nigeria at all (@Abubakar-Sadiq). As far as I know, she is spending her time both in Nigeria and in the US.

    I also like that she reminds us that this “identity politics”, far from being something “minorities” came up with, had a white inception and it is mainly supported by white people in the US.

    It never ceases to amaze me how one does not realize belongint to a tribe until one actually travels outside and sees where one comes from :-).

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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