The act of criticizing President Trump is accompanied by risk. At first glance, it may seem easy to be critical toward someone who gives rise to hostility with his racist and sexist conduct. However, much of that criticism is dismissed on the basis that such logic is the sign of elitism and the establishment.

Some say things like, “From the bottom of my heart, I despise Trump supporters. They are actually really prejudiced.” Others say, “Trump did not win by a popular vote. It was undemocratic.” Others submit that “Hollywood celebrities do not understand the lifestyles of common people.”

Of course, it is important to understand the inner workings of those who gave strong backing to President Trump, the white Midwestern workers of the Rust Belt, where employment and industry has declined. However, is it right to be tolerant and sympathetic toward them, without looking at the situation in context? Here, context refers simply to history. Movements and reforms that include racial divides do not bring about social justice. This lesson can be perceived by examining the early and middle history of the United States.

Although the Civil War ended with the northern army’s victory, and slavery was abolished from the South, it was an incomplete effort. There was an earnest search for a solution that would make this society one without racism and class inequalities. The establishment of liberated slaves was supposed to create a southern society with a high level of equality.

However, the reality is that the white plantation owners who dominated the South before the war undid the purge of officials, and made a comeback. The project of rebuilding the South was set back halfway through. Although lower class white people were close to the same class as the former slaves, they chose not to join with them and segregated themselves instead.

Unfortunately, because of this, they lost their chance to join together to fight against the common enemy – people like the rich plantation owners – in an effort to change an unfair society.

An important historical note is that, although they were few in number, there certainly did exist white people who were convinced that fixating on whiteness would not create genuine freedom or equality. If highlighting the cause of the “abandoned white worker” without discernment obstructs the path of social change, then that is a great tragedy. While considering the position of white Trump supporters, it is important to apply understanding and, at the same time, maintain an attitude that will not be swept away in view of superficial sympathy.