In a press conference during which Donald Trump shed any pretense of being anything other than a white supremacist demagogue deploying his power in the service of fascism, hate-mongering and violence wrought from the desperate need whiteness has to preserve itself, he said this:
Trump: Well, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take ... down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?
Reporter: I do love Thomas Jefferson—
Trump: OK, good. Well, are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?
In that moment, he held up a mirror that so-called good white people have attempted to avoid since this nation’s inception. He called out his co-conspirators for the hypocritical, self-serving, disingenuous revisionists that they are. As #ThisIsNotUS continues to trend on Twitter—that violent hashtag that reeks of privilege, weakness and willful ignorance—it is critical that one thing be made clear:
There is no redeeming value in whiteness. The violence of its disciples and silent beneficiaries has always been legible.
Still, so-called good white folks claim to be illiterate while demanding that black people teach them how to read this “new” America—even though generations of our spilled blood is the ink.
The political ascendance of Donald Trump did not occur in a vacuum. This All Lives Matter revolution in response to his presidency—and the hoodless Klanspeople and White Citizens’ Councillors it has emboldened—is born of the realization that more white people will die. More white people will be collateral damage in a war on poor and working-class black and brown people that has decimated communities and families for generations. This has been the inevitability ever since slavery shape-shifted into something more palatable for so-called good white folks who need to draw a line between blatant white supremacists and themselves.
For every so-called good white person who denied—and continues to deny—that white supremacy is an ideological and institutional power structure, not a feeling, that thrives on the systemic economic, political and physical subjugation of oppressed people, there is blood on their hands.
For every so-called good white person who has sat idly by while black people were—and continue to be—lynched in the streets, there is blood on their hands.
For every so-called good white person who said nothing, did nothing, while public schools continued—and continue—to purposely discriminate against and miseducate black students, there is blood on their hands.
For every so-called good white person who ignored that prisons are the new plantations, and that working-class and poor black and brown communities are occupied, not protected, by hypermilitarized police forces, there is blood on their hands.
For every so-called good white person who said nothing, did nothing, when black women were—and continue to be—raped and killed by police officers, there is blood on their hands.
For every so-called good white person who looked—and continues to look—at black boys dead in the street and urged black people burning with revolutionary rage to settle for a negative peace and the presence of order instead of justice, there is blood on their hands today.
There is nothing new about this America. This America has been nurtured, massaged and shaped brick by brick by a whiteness that is rotten to its core. To paraphrase James Baldwin from his 1970 letter to Angela Davis, black people in this country have long warned so-called good white folks that if they stood down while the badge-wearing lynchers, the U.S.-military-uniform-wearing fascists, the black-robe-wearing white supremacists and the domestic terrorists next door came for us in the morning, then they would surely come for them at night.
This I know to be true: There would be no widespread calls to “resist,” no insistence that this is “our revolution,” no catchy chants of “Hey, hey, ho-ho, white supremacy has got to go” if that had not come to pass.
When so-called good white people slow-dance with devils—when the vile rhythm of racism, its crescendo and crash, is the embedded soundtrack of this wretched nation—they should not be surprised when they wake up in hell.
The state-sanctioned executions of little black boys and girls have been marginalized, considered too “politicized” a cause to pledge allegiance to openly and without reservation, but this political fight that has led to the spilling of white blood is supposed to be an American one by default.
No. I will not pretend that this is a new America for some false sense of unity. I will not pretend that this is “Trump’s America.” I will not pretend that the time for open rebellion and revolution has just now dawned for the sake of white comfort.
I will not dance.
There is one quote from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” (pdf) that speaks to the myth of time and calls out white liberals for their complicity:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
We know this quote as a call to reflection and an acceptance of accountability, but there is another quote in that same letter that is an unapologetically urgent call to action:
Though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? ... Was not Amos an extremist for justice? ... Was not Martin Luther an extremist? ... So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?
When this latest overflow of white violence has washed away; when the tide has receded only to come again; when white supremacy once again scurries back into the crevices of this nation, hatching its eggs, birthing new murderers and co-conspirators who, to survive, only need to practice a quieter racism; when there are once again calls for measured justice, pragmatic solutions and the acceptance of slow genocide, there is but one question that will remain for those who claim to cry freedom:
Are you willing to be an extremist for liberation and justice ... or will you continue to dance with devils, pretending you don’t recognize their faces when you look in the mirror?