The more I watch these terrifying videos of the insurrection, the attempted coup, the brutality at the Capitol, the angrier I get. I struggle to process the open display of white supremacy and its symbols: the confederate flags, the nooses, the Nazi salutes, the sweatshirts declaring that the deaths of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust was not enough.
I get angry because I feel the conflict that so many of you feel, when you want to believe that we are better than that, but you know that we are not better than that, not fully, not completely, not yet.
I don’t like that feeling.
And then I pause, and I remember that this is just the latest example of white supremacy in this country, albeit perhaps one of the most egregious ones I’ve seen in some time, perhaps since, oh, just last summer. (Have you (re)watched the murder of George Floyd lately?)
There is a long, long history of white supremacists resisting or refusing to be governed by Black people or other people of color.
Of white supremacists coming up with the most creative, insidious, and brutal ways to prevent the voices of Black people and other people of color from being heard, and to prevent their votes from being counted.
Of white supremacists fighting to protect their own power, rights, privileges and advantages at the expense of everyone else.
Of white supremacists supporting the enforcers of the laws that preserve the status quo (and thus, protect their power), right up until the moment when law enforcement becomes inconvenient to white supremacy.
Of white supremacists criminalizing Black protest while glorifying or turning a blind eye towards white insurrection.
Of white supremacists threatening to kill people who don’t promote or respect their assertion of white supremacy — and then going out and doing it. The mob, the lynching, the thuggery, the looting, the massacres, the burnings… it has always been part of the tradition of national white indignation. They just brand it patriotism and preservation and then it’s all good.
There is so much history of white supremacy in this country, it’s almost as if it were simply a natural part of the order of things. Just a part of the way things… are. Just something to be expected. Brazen and banal at the same time.
The frequency is the point.
The frequency of white supremacy is about normalizing white supremacy (or continuing to do so), to make you believe that what you see is actually not that big of a deal, because it happens all the time. Therefore, it can’t be that bad, because who would let something so bad happen so frequently?
White supremacy can no longer be normalized. While it has been present throughout all 400 years of our history, its birth also seeded its demise: freedom and equality. The resistance to white supremacy is fueled by some of the same things that white people themselves have been fighting for in this country for centuries: freedom, representation, and equal protection.
You see, the soul of America is just like the soul of every human: it is a battleground where the urge to give in to primal, selfish desires struggles with the inherent capacity for good and concern for others.
On one side: forces that have long sought to oppress and destroy anyone who prevented the elevation — quite literally, the supremacy — of white people above all others. On the other: forces that have sought to express that inner light that understands freedom and equality are essentially human, and therefore cannot be withheld from anyone or denied by anyone, but must be respected by everyone.
That is where the tension has always been: when what one person or group wants, comes at the expense of another person or group, and when the selfish side gains the upper hand and twists itself into hatred, who yields?
Well, I say we must no longer yield to white supremacy. It is time for it to yield to that better part of America’s soul: equality for all, defined by the unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness; expressed as a Republic that stands for liberty and justice for all. It is time for these words to be true for all Americans, indeed.
And for it to be true for all Americans, white Americans who do not believe in white supremacy must step up and do their part. Stop ignoring it. Stop excusing it. Stop minimizing it. Stop enabling it.
I’m sure the events of last Wednesday have captured your attention. But attention is fleeting.
Turn your attention into intention. And turn your intention into change.
Stand up for the America that has always promised justice and equality for all, even when America has not always lived up to that promise. Tell these supremacists that they while they may have always been a part of America, they do not represent you, nor the America you believe in, the America you seek for our children. Stand up for Black people, for Brown people, for Indigenous people, for Jewish people, for Muslim people, for people of all faiths, for immigrants, for women, for all gender identities, for all sexual orientations, for all abilities. Because “liberty and justice” don’t mean anything without “for all.”