Call it: A Gift to Your Future Kids



Justice Education

“To the victor go the spoils”. This was a quote used by Donald Trump during his campaign. He used it as a justification for America taking control of Iraqi oil fields. But it reveals the mentality that we recently saw on this campus in the wake of the election results. As someone who studies genocide and atrocity, I am well aware of how people can feel as if violence, even genocide, is the only answer to their problem. It is a twisted, distorted perception of the world but it does happen. What is even more curious is why winners sometimes celebrate their victory with mockery, gloating, and violence. If you won, then why continue to act as though the competition is still active? This is what happened when a group of Villanova men verbally and physically assaulted one of our own female students, chanting, “Trump! Trump! Trump!” knocking her to the ground the day after the election.  For many, this was a horrifying act, a cocktail of misogyny, racism (she is black), immaturity, and ignorance.  But for others (including Trump), this power and impunity is part of their understanding of strength.

Here’s what I’ve learned from studying genocide. We only fight the things we fear. This is a slightly countercultural way to see violence because most people see it as a product of hate. I see violence as a product of fear. Most times the fear is not real but that does not really matter much in the moment. The mentality at work that night in the tunnel was based on Trump’s idea: “To the victor go the spoils”. The electoral affirmation of that mentality was expressed by the election of Trump.  In fact, we have seen a spike of violence across this country and on this campus.

But this is not a show of strength. What happened in that tunnel was a dazzling display of weakness and fear, not strength and confidence.  But in that moment, in their heads, that action of knocking down that woman made sense to them. In fact, it probably felt good to them. My guess is that the one who knocked her down was trying to impress his friends. In that moment he gained social capital acting out the part of the alpha male.  When Donald Trump bragged about groping women without consent (a.k.a. sexual assault) he was doing the same thing: gaining social capital. And the giggling Billy Bush gave him just that.

We will always have a few men who attempt to gain social capital through violence (in all of its forms), imagined or real. And as long as the rest of us men continue to stand in silent awe or feed it with laughter, the violence will continue. This single action brought the ugliness of the Trump campaign home in a way that has shocked many on this campus. It is a call to action for those of us inside white culture to deny oxygen to this kind of aggression. We need to reframe the way we look at the alpha male, not as powerful but as weak, not as confident but as insecure. If men saw other men who bragged or used violence as insecure and weak then we could move the needle forward toward a redefinition of strength.  We could improve.

White supremacy is on its way out. It may look like it is on the rise but it is in the death throes. The world is moving away from the white male. But some white men seem unable to adapt. They seem to be determined to go out with violence. This election is an indication of the insecurity and fear felt by white people in this country and across Europe. As a white privileged male, I look forward to a world with collaboration but I grieve for the pain some men feel committed to inflict as they sink. I, like many others, am committed to reducing the violence in any way I can. Unfortunately, white male culture has not yet been able to envision itself as anything but dominant. This has created deep unrest even from the most privileged and financially secure members of white male culture (Villanova?).   The only way that we are going to move forward is when white people, predominantly men like myself, deny oxygen to this ignorant violence. This is not easy because we have a deep systemic bias that shames us if we challenge our own, or someone else’s, privilege. We must create a new currency of social capital; a currency that is based not on aggression and dominance but on the dignity of the human body and humility. To that end, I challenge every white male on campus to redefine strength by standing up to alpha male behavior at least one time in the next month. Consider it a gift to your future children.