There must be a certain stomach-churning consternation that comes with watching a house made of privilege disintegrate like a sandcastle at high tide. To watch the waves that keep you afloat wash over the moat that protects you. To discover that the gleaming beacon of liberty and freedom was never anything but a tiki torch. That this rickety glass house we call a “democracy” could be fractured by a few arbitrary stones heaved by wobbly-armed cowards, emboldened by a mob mentality, fueled by a feckless egomaniac.
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Luckily, Black people came up with a name for this unsettling hangover that white people are experiencing:
Thursday is different from Wednesday. On Wednesday, a thundering horde of white supremacists kicked in the doors of the democracy factory and demanded their right to strip Black voters of their constitutional rights. On Tuesday, that was called “economic anxiety.” But, on Thursday, every news outlet in America flailed its arms and pointed to this presidential lynch mob as an existential threat to the peace and safety of this beloved republic. Those Thursday, Monday and Tuesday “patriots” were suddenly transformed into “terrorists” and “thugs.”
On Wednesday, everyone was suddenly astonished, as if they had no idea that white people did this all the time. As if there was no Charlottesville. As if the “White Lives Matter” march never happened. As if there was no such thing as a “Proud Boy.” As if the president hadn’t been telegraphing this for four years.
What did they think “stand down and stand by” meant?
That the supporters of a racist, addle-brained liar who venerated Confederate traitors would betray their country based on lies and racism was as inevitable as a sunrise; as unforeseen as the outcome of a well-meaning missionary trying to pet an unchained man-eating lion. All lions are man-eating. All Trump supporters are racist traitors. And what is a traitor without a coup?
A white man.
The ones stunned by this shocking turn of events are the same ones who just learned that police shoot unarmed Black people when videos started popping up in their Facebook feed. They also recently discovered school underfunding, the wealth gap, voter suppression and the war on drugs.
Ever since Donald Trump raised his right hand to the sky and took his oath of office, Black people everywhere have been howling a futile warning at disinterested white earholes, knitting their pink hats, giggling about the Ku Klux clambakes disguised as political pep rallies. When we said this is how it would end, we weren’t making a prediction.
On Trump’s Inauguration Day, we gave an obituary for America, writing:
In the end, she was undone by a demon, turd-shaped jack-o’-lantern who used hate, xenophobia, white privilege and a single-digit IQ to bamboozle white America into turning back the hands of progress. He had no experience, intellect or plan, and his only mantra was the promise that he would actually move America backward. By conducting himself as a third-grade bully with a limited vocabulary and a Twitter account, he lulled America into a false sense of security, then took a Russian-made knife concealed in a small part of America’s Constitution, called the Electoral College, and stabbed her in the chest repeatedly until she succumbed.
Just like the Shakespearean Julius Caesar, as she fell to the ground, clutching her chest, America muttered her last words:
Et tu wypipo?
We told y’all.
We know the police don’t “fear for their lives” when white people run toward them with rabid scowls on their faces. We know Republicans will dismiss these actions and continue to appeal to these violent extremists and their delusional conspiracy theories. We know everyone who is clutching their pearls believes this will all be resolved when Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general won’t do shit to hold Donald Trump accountable.
“Why didn’t the police do something?” they asked on Wednesday, after watching how police kicked Black people in the face for an entire summer as if they didn’t know there was a double standard for how police treat white people versus how they treat Black people. Before Thursday, the castle-stormers were not insurrectionists. On Tuesday, Republicans like Kelly Loeffler, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz—who ginned up crowds by inciting these mutineers to join the MAGA Hunger Games—were “Trump loyalists.”
The rest of the world was stunned by this wholly unremarkable thing that always happens. Black people, however, watched this with the same eyes we used to watch Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced that Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey would not be charged for shooting Jacob Blake in the back, seven times, at point-blank range. We swallowed it with the same mouths that whistled while Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and Michigan specifically counted and recounted the votes from where we live, insinuating: “Ain’t no way they voted in the exact same percentage as white people. How’d they know how to fill out the absentee ballots? Those niggers must be up to something.”
Do you know how that makes us feel?
It felt the same way it did in 2016. Like it did when they said there was no reason to recount the votes when Stacey Abrams lost in the 2018 midterms. Like it did when Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton disregarded the loyalty of Democrats and chased white votes. Like it did when Charlottesville, Va., hosted a white supremacist rally and acted surprised when it turned violent. Like it did when the Supreme Court dismantled the Voting Rights Act. Like it did when they put a handmaid on the Supreme Court. Like it did when courts said Black crack users are 100 times worse than white cocaine sniffers.
Like “welfare queens.” Like “send her back.” Like “both sides.” Like “law and order.” Like “shithole countries.” Like “tough on crime.” Like “sons’ of bitches.”
Perhaps, one day, someone will rank this day right up there with the election of Donald Trump, but not higher than when Breonna Taylor was shot for not being a drug dealer but lower than the father-son lynching team who would have been at this rally if they weren’t in jail for shooting Ahmaud Arbery for not burglarizing a home, which still ranks near the time 74 million people voted for a white supremacist president. But they pale in comparison to that time when the president of the United States said something racist. And I know you’re asking: “Which time?”
For Black people, Thursdays are a lot like Mondays. And Tuesdays. And other days that are spelled with letters of the alphabet. For Black people, our survival depends on an intimate knowledge of the antipathy and innate hostility of white America. We know the whims of whiteness better than anyone in the world. But, to be fair, the people who are stunned by America being America are right when they say: “This is not who we are.”
No, there was a time when this country was a million times worse than that. As a matter of fact, Black people also have a name for that period in history. We call it...
“Every goddamn day.”