Monday, January 09, 2017

White evangelicals and nostalgia for 1950s rural life helped land Trump in White House

President-elect Donald Trump got 81 percent of the votes of white evangelicals—a group often consisting of older Americans who long for the good old days of the 1950s when minorities had fewer rights, Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes for The Washington Post. A 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 74 percent of white evangelicals believe American culture has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s, compared to 62 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanic Americans who think the culture has changed for the better.

Take Mount Airy, N.C. (Best Places map), birthplace of Andy Griffith and the town many believe to be the inspiration for Mayberry on The Andy Grffith Show. The town is in Surry County, North Carolina, which Trump easily won, 23,210 to 7,280 for Hillary Clinton. The county of 73,170 is 92.3 percent white, and Mount Airy is 84 percent white, 8.2 percent black and 6.7 percent Hispanic.

In Mount Airy there seems to be a definite nostalgia for the past among the older generation, Bailey writes. Mayor David Rowe, 72, "said African Americans often bring hardship on themselves." Asked to explain what he meant, "he amended the statement to mean young blacks." He told Bailey, “When you’re my age and you see an African American boy with pants at their knees, you can’t appreciate them.” Rowe, who said he would never employ someone who dressed that way, told Bailey, “I’m worried about when a person chooses to dresses like that, what kind of effect will that person have on society.” He also said he rarely encounters non-whites in social settings, “because folks tend to self-segregate.”

Thresa Tucker, whose husband is a Baptist pastor in Mount Airy, said "African Americans who have voiced concerns over what Trump will do for the poor would have a different perspective if they tried harder to help themselves," Bailey writes. Tucker told her, “I think black people think they’re owed something. I think if they acted differently, people would be apt to help them.” Tucker "later added that some white people expect handouts, too."

Ron Jessup, an African American who grew up in Mount Airy in the 1950s, said the town was a generally friendly place to be "as long as he and other blacks obeyed the racist laws and social mores of the time," Bailey writes. He called Trump's “Make America Great Again” slogan "code for 'take America back again,' and a reaction to President Obama’s election." Jessup told Bailey, “Sometimes we use Christianity when it’s convenient for what we want. You can’t allow someone to have racist remarks and then go to church and talk about Jesus as the center of your life.” (Read more)

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