Black folks generally (looking at you Ms. Owens) don’t need to be told we have a rising white supremacy problem in this country.
The racially motivated murder of 10 Black Americans in May, as tragic as it was, was hardly the first sign that the United States faced a growing white supremacist threat.
But the Black to the Future Action Fund, run by Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, is one of the few places actually asking Black Americans en masse what they’d like to see done about it.
Starting in July of 2021, the action fund has been conducting bi-monthly “temperature check” polls of Black adults in the United States to figure out what issues Black Americans care about and how they’d like to see them addressed. The Black to the Future Action Fund temperature check is the largest recurring poll of Black Americans in the country.
Instead of waiting for policymakers, many of whom don’t have the same stakes in the fight against white supremacy, to come up with answers, Garza says her organization aims to give Black communities the ability to voice community-centered solutions.
“Our philosophy… is that we can’t wait,” she says. “Nobody’s coming to save us, right? We need to be able to save ourselves.”
The solutions Garza’s team has been able to collect so far as a part of their polls’ January temperature check have been really practical, she says. Some of these solutions include asking the Biden-Harris administration to declare white supremacy a national security threat and white supremacist acts as domestic terrorism.
“One of those solutions is being aggressive in removing white supremacists from law enforcement agencies,” says Garza. “What we know through the FBI and our own research and investigation, is that the numbers of white supremacist and law enforcement agencies have risen and increased over time.”
In 2020, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a damning 2006 redacted FBI report which revealed that government officials were deeply concerned about the infiltration of white supremacists into police departments throughout the US, but had decided not to warn the public.
And in May, a Reuters investigation found that a significant number of US police instructors were connected to armed right-wing and white supremacist militia groups including some of the groups who stormed the US Capitol.
“We also hear stories about open active gatherings inside of police departments and law enforcement agencies of white supremacists,” says Garza, “if you know those things are happening, you should stop it.”
But who should lead the charge of weeding out white supremacy among law enforcement? As always Black folks have an answer for that too, the Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights.
“Our communities want to see that office expanded and that there’ll be more resources placed into it,” she says. “Particularly in an era when even the FBI says that white nationalism… is the greatest threat to democracy in a generation. We want to see more action coming.”
Getting guns off the streets and out of the hands of folks like the Buffalo shooter is another major priority for Black Americans, according to Garza’s poll.
“Black folks want people who have committed hate crimes not to be able to have access to firearms,” says Garza, referencing the results of the January poll. “I guarantee you that if there was an epidemic of black people going into white communities and inflicting violence, we would have gun control legislation.”
So can gathering the thoughts of hundreds of thousands of Black Americans actually help combat white supremacy? Garza and her team certainly hope so.
“Even though things are very dire, what we know is that when more people have the tools of power in their hands, things can change,” says Garza. “And so that’s the work that we do every single day. And we do it with vigor and with rigor because our lives really do depend on it.”
Check out part 1 of our conversation with Alicia Garza to hear more about the rise of white supremacist violence in the United States, and the ways the Republican party has helped it grow.