Beside the Alt-Right: Trevor Noah, Charlamagne tha God, Kanye West
By Jaylin Paschal
Trevor Noah and Charlamagne tha God both recently offered their platform to alt-right poster child, Tomi Lahren. Her looks, erratic mannerisms, and troubling narrative would have her pass as a relative to President Elect Donald Trump, who Kanye West met in the Trump Towers earlier this week.
Charlamagne loves the devil's advocate role, and loves controversy so it was no shock to me that he had Tomi Lahren on his radio talkshow, The Breakfast Club. Trevor Noah had Lahren on The Daily Show to discuss everything from Black Lives Matter to Colin Kaepernick to President Elect Donald Trump. Kanye West tweeted that he met with Trump to discuss "multicultural issues" including "bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums, and violence in Chicago."
[Note: No one, including Kanye, knows what "multicultural issues" means. Bullying, education and violence in Chicago are all police powers, not federal issues. Talking to Trump about these things is virtually pointless, and will not be fruitful in terms of anything but a photo op.]
I know how much everyone loves "benefits" and "doubts" and such, so I'll go as far as to say that these three men had the right intentions when meeting with these three symbols of the contemporary struggle for justice and equity. I'm sure they would argue that this dialogue is healthy, or necessary, or even beneficial to "the movement."
And for those who agree with, I need you to hear me: There is no communication between you and those who believe you don't deserve a voice. They don't hear you. No head nod, no handshake, no "common ground" will validate your argument. It is not a conversation in the way you think it is.
There's no meeting in the middle with the alt-right. It's not a simple aisle crossing conversation between progressives and conservatives. The core constituency of the alt-right is calling for resegregation, and that's their kindest plan. It's Nazism. It's white nationalism, glossed over to look chic and shiny, and most of all, rational. It is not. There are worlds--galaxies, even--separating your ideologies. And while we back home appreciate your shouting, they can't hear you scream across space.
And these conversations--this "dialogue"--it doesn't really change much, does it? When you're speaking with someone like Lahren or Trump, who has risen to their position because of their rhetoric, nothing you say to them will prompt them to switch positions. Even if internally, they are swayed to agree with you, their status and popularity is dependent on maintaining the narrative that has brought them their base of support. That's a basic rule of politics and business, although not of humanity.
The problem isn't that we try to initiate these conversations. That's admirable, although argubly naive. The problem is that when we give people who can't even agree that our lives matter (or at least not publicly) a platform, we are validating their stance. We are saying "Here's an argument you, my audience, who grants me credibility, should sincerely consider. Here's a proposal that's worth discussion."
And then Daily Show fans, and high schoolers listening to The Breakfast Club, and Kanye stans worldwide attempt to rationalize a position that should not be regarded as valid.
But, there is one benefit to giving people like Lahren a platform: We put a face to what may otherwise be understood as abstract. And not just any face--the face of a youthful, conventionally beautiful white woman. This face contradicts how many of us imagine the alt-right--old, white men who are out of touch and bitter and will die off soon anyway. This face has no Nazi tattoos, no white hood, no confederate flag hat. This face is new and approachable. This face allows us to realize that this modern wave of white nationalism from the alt-right is gorgeous in its ability to appear normal. That's why we send it cupcakes and pose beside it for cute photos. That's why it's different than what we've faced before. And perhaps, that's why it's more dangerous.