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Speak of the Week

November 10, 2016 by Speakers' Spotlight

Speak of the Week: Van Jones

As the US election results rolled-in during the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 9, a new word entered the popular lexicon – white-lash.

Amid a panel of CNN analysts hunkered down in the network’s studio airing their opinions as to why Donald Trump was in the lead and looked set to take the title as the new president-elect, Van Jones, who once served as an advisor to President Obama, chose to air his thoughts bluntly and powerful.

Watering-down exactly nothing, he got straight to his point. “People have talked about a miracle,” he said, describing those who viewed Trump’s ascent as a victory. “I’m hearing about a nightmare.”

Explaining that the reality he was witnessing as Trump’s electoral votes ticked up meant that many Americans were asking themselves how they would explain the results to their children, and that he was receiving texts from his Muslim friends who were asking him if they should leave the USA, Van Jones put his finger on the scared, racing pulse of many in the nation.

“This was many things”, he elaborated. “This was a rebellion against the elites, true. It was a complete reinvention of politics and polls, it’s true. But it was also something else….This was a white-lash. This was a white-lash against a changing country. It was a white-lash against a black president in part, and that’s the part where the pain comes.”

With that, Van Jones put a name to the meaning behind much of the poll results. A meaning that reaches far beyond the elitism, class, and social warfare others on the panel had been identifying as reasons for Trump’s unexpected surge. A white-lash. A reaction to America having had a black man as president for the past eight years; a choice by the majority of American voters to reinstate a white man as president, a white man who during his campaign had been vocal about his dislike, even hatred, of minorities.

The word “white-lash” may not have been in the dictionary prior to Wednesday, but it’s a word that will remain on the tip of the tongue for many in the days, weeks, months and even years to come.

By briskly, brusquely — and even brutally — naming the elephant in the room as he sees it, Van Jones put a name to a movement that many Americans once believed was behind them, and now – with the election of Donald Trump – may be in the middle of once again.

For bravely calling it the way he sees it, we chose Van Jones as our Speak of the Week.