James McNamara reviews 'The Sellout' by Paul Beatty

The morning after the US election, Los Angeles was still. Usually a roar of noise, my city was stunned silent. As I spoke with distraught friends and colleagues, the fact that our West Hollywood polling place had been in a funeral home now seemed prescient: it felt like a wake. Donald Trump, who ran a vile campaign that – amongst innumerable barbarisms – suborned sexual assault, abused minorities, made racist claims, and was cheered by the KKK, had been elected president. As evening fell across America, protests began.

After Barack Obama’s election, I, like many progressives, hoped we had moved into a post-racial world, that Dr King’s dream had been realised and people were no longer judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. How wrong we were. How naïve. As the day went on, election demographics were released: Trump’s votes came not from the dispossessed poor but the angry white. As commentator Van Jones said: ‘This was a whitelash against a changing country ... a whitelash against a black president.’ In the following days, reports came in like long-delayed telegrams from another age: a black woman shoved from a path; a gay man beaten until he bled; Muslim women’s hijabs ripped from their heads; swastikas sprayed on walls. Racism and intolerance are alive and well, and Donald Trump has restored their ugly public voice.

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Published in December 2016, no. 387

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