I haven’t posted in a while. I had some wifi struggles, took a trip, and this past week I have been grappling with violence and hatred that I have been trying to sort through both personally and professionally. However, an article I came across earlier today was the push I needed to go beyond my tweets, Facebook posts, and Common Dreams articles, in an effort to engage in more online discussions about racism in the U.S. today.
Before Charlottesville, I planned to share an article roundup that began with: Through emergency apartment construction, an internet outage that jeopardized some deadlines, work challenges, financial worries, and car troubles, this past week and a half has reminded me that we learn from struggles and failures, rather than from success.
All of that remains true, and I’m still working on how to deal with that concept, especially because last weekend I returned to my college campus for the first time in more than two years, which forced me to confront a lot of my emotions and experiences from the most difficult period of my life. However, in light of current events, thoughts about fierce debates over nationalism and white supremacy in the U.S. have taken priority in my mind, so that’s what I’m going to address in the rest of this post.
I came across this video on Facebook. My reaction to it was so detailed and complex that I decided against posting comments on someone else’s profile; instead, my blog seemed like a more productive space to respond to it and hopefully start a broader conversation.
A list of my reactions, in no particular order:
- Nationalism and white supremacy are notable components of U.S. history, and significantly influenced the formation of our government as well as our institutions that perpetuate systemic racism—e.g., public schools, prisons, as the vlogger notes. Nationalism and white supremacy never disappeared from the U.S., but immediately before Trump’s political career kicked off, these ideologies seemed to gain more public support, partly tied to the economic crisis and its impact on white working and middle-class Americans.
- The perpetual racism in the U.S. seemed to intensify leading up to the rise of Trump because (1) we had a black president for two terms, and (2) before, during and after the economic crisis, politicians and media figures alike told white people who were financially struggling that people of color were taking their tax dollars via government programs—often ignoring that many white Americans rely on these programs, from food stamps to public housing, and the recession disproportionately impacted communities and people of color.
- This intensifying racism contributed to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement (which this black vlogger is apparently also against). Although there has been violence at some BLM events, it’s worth noting that these events and this movement have come in response to violence against and systemic oppression of people of color. Dismissing the Charlottesville counter-protesters as “losers,” as this vlogger does, dismisses the violence and systemic racism that people of color have encountered in the U.S.
- The growing threat of nationalism and white supremacism is not a false media narrative, as the vlogger suggests. The demonstrations in Charlottesville last weekend and the white nationalist/supremacist rallies across the country today illustrate that they and their ideologies significantly threaten people of color, and while it’s true that these racist individuals and groups were still organizing and demonstrating during the Obama years, and the decades beforehand, many nationalists and white supremacists have publicly stated that they feel empowered by President Donald Trump.
- Trump’s accession to the presidency has not just motivated individuals to publicly proclaim racist views, it’s also a symptom of nationalism and white supremacy’s rise pre-Trump (which in addition to being partly triggered by the economic crisis, also intensified in response to the BLM movement). Trump gained supporters on the campaign trail by speaking to the (sometimes unconscious) racist views of many white Americans of all socioeconomic classes. Many white people who voted for Trump bought into his claims that he too was frustrated with the “swamp” of long-serving politicians and the influence money has on politics—in addition to arguments touted by white supremacists that people of color are not only taking money away from hard-working white people but also that they are negatively changing the culture of the US. As president, not only has Trump stacked the White House and agencies with “swamp” dwellers (long-time politicians, lobbyists, and corporate insiders), but he’s also appointed agency leaders and advisers known for pushing racist and nationalist agendas—e.g., Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who couldn’t even get approved for a lesser role during the Reagan years because of accusations of racism, and Steve Bannon, an accused white nationalist who, until yesterday, served as the WH’s chief strategist. The nationalists and white supremacists cheered on Trump’s recent remarks about violence on “both sides” in Charlottesville—on their own social media and in interviews—and they have openly stated that they feel emboldened by Trump’s commentary as president. Thus, nationalists and white supremacists are a greater threat today than they were before the election because they, by their own admission, are emboldened by the Trump administration.
- Although it is true that the news media often failed to cover the threats posed by racism and racist policies and institutions during the Obama years—and even before his two terms—and also often failed to adequately understand how much support Trump was garnering during his campaign (hence the “shock” when he won), it is foolish and ignorant of this vlogger to dismiss the threat of nationalism and white supremacism as a false media narrative. It is valid and reasonable to critique the news media’s coverage of race topics, but the thousands of people across the country protesting in favor of and in opposition to nationalism and white supremacy this week clearly illustrate that the news media is not merely making up these threats.
- This vlogger also bases her conclusions that the racial war in the U.S. is “fake” and white supremacy is no longer a threat on only her first-hand experience. Based only on the outline she provides of her day (going to the gym, then buying a latte), it appears she may be wealthy enough to avoid some of the barriers and threats that many others—especially black women—in America face every day. As a white woman, I cannot fully comprehend what it is like to be a woman of color in America, but from my interactions with people of various races, as well as from studying racism, sexism, U.S. history, and U.S. politics, it seems that this vlogger is either ignoring or unaware of how her experiences differ from that of many other people—particularly women—of color. She doesn’t seem willing to consider that just because people of various races at her gym or local coffee shop appear to be getting along doesn’t necessarily mean that other people of color in the U.S. aren’t experiencing the full force of racism and white supremacy. I am especially intrigued by this vlogger’s apparent unwillingness to consider the potential limits of her perspective because although I disagree with many of her expressed political views, in the few videos I have seen she comes across as composed, thoughtful, and as though she has substantially engaged with history and current events.
- Being concerned about high rates of black-on-black crime and being concerned about racist threats from white supremacy are not mutually exclusive. It makes sense that people target other people of their own race when they commit violent crimes because (1) often those who commit violent crimes target people they are near to and/or people they know personally, and (2) the nation’s long history of racist housing policies and “white flight” have led to segregation in communities across the country, so it is logical that statistically there is more black-on-black violent crime (and more white-on-white violent crime) than violent crimes across races. But just because violent crime is statistically more likely to occur between two people of the same race—and, as the vlogger points out, black people in the U.S. face many other threats and struggles beyond racist attacks—does not mean that we should dismiss threats posed by the neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white supremacists, and nationalists picking up their semi-automatic weapons and tiki torches to riot in the streets across the country in favor of white dominance.
Conclusion: Nationalism and white supremacism currently threaten our nation, and their rise especially threatens people of color, but it should concern all of us because silence is complicity; by not condemning racism, we enable it to continue and become partly responsible for it. As a white woman from a middle-class family, I recognize that I had I privileged upbringing and I feel it is my obligation try to learn from and advocate for reforms that improve the lives of people who have been oppressed by the systems that have given me my privileged status, in an effort to contribute to creating a more equitable and inclusive country. This rise of nationalism and white supremacy we’re seeing isn’t a narrative made up by the news media; the movement existed long before Trump was elected, but also it has intensified as a result of his campaign and election. This video worries me because it signals to her audience that people of color and white people alike don’t need to worry about nationalism and white supremacists, as if the systemic racism in the institutions she mentions isn’t a direct result of the culture of white superiority that influenced our country’s creation, and continues to influence our institutions and society. What’s baffling to me is that she acknowledges that systemic racism in schools and prisons keep people of color in a cycle of crime and poverty, but she is apparently unwilling to recognize that the way those institutions operate is a direct result of the same nationalism and white supremacism that’s currently being debated in our nation’s streets.
I encourage you to share this post/respond privately or publicly/send me related articles, books, videos, and documentaries. I am interested in exploring and understanding these topics more.