On Tuesday, Donald Trump’s equivocation on the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist rallies that plunged into violence and acts of terrorism forced America to accept an unmistakable, undeniable and utterly horrifying fact: Donald Trump, president of the United States, is a terrorist sympathizer.
You can use whatever euphemisms you’d like—Trump is a terrorist supporter, Trump is terror-curious, Trump is terror-adjacent—but the basic facts don’t change. The president of the United States sympathizes with and will provide aid and comfort to white supremacists, and he’s put together an administration to help those groups achieve goals they can’t accomplish through democratic means.
The only questions now are how do you live in a terrorist state, how do you resist a terrorist state and, most importantly, can you win? There is a little hope, but it takes a lot of historical digging to find the right plan moving forward.
Anyone who is shocked or crying on cable networks after Trump’s Charlottesville press conference has either been blind to his entire administration or feels guilty about his or her complicity in normalizing it.
Trump hired Steve Bannon, from the “alt-right” and white nationalist website Breitbart; he made Jeff Sessions attorney general; he hired Stephen Miller for his communications team; he hired Sebastian Gorka and Michael Anton—and that is a fairly substantial list of men with strong ties to white nationalism.
When you consider that dozens of positions like ambassadorships and crucial political offices that have still not been staffed by this administration, it really stands out that Trump has made such a concerted effort to get white nationalists set and ensconced in his administration. NFL owners keep drafting and signing players with domestic violence rap sheets, and the public has come to accept that these owners either are actual abusers themselves or have no problems with the abuse of women by their employees.
Trump’s staff selections are no different. Who one hires is a reflection of one’s values, and he’s hired a bunch of white nationalists.
Understanding what white supremacy means and how it relates to Trump’s terror advocacy is essential to the survival of the United States and of African Americans in particular. There are “levels to this,” and understanding what level of racial danger he has empowered is important.
White supremacy is the American baseline; it’s the idea that white people are just inherently better than everybody else at just about everything. This country was founded on that idea, and there are white supremacists everywhere, with most not even realizing that they are. The social-justice-warrior “ally” who keeps tone-policing black people on Twitter; the co-worker who keeps saying that what happened to Trayvon Martin is a “tragedy” but who can’t quite humanize him—that’s white supremacy.
The next level up is bigotry. These people are white supremacists who actually dislike black people. Bigots join the Ku Klux Klan, kill black people and redline black neighborhoods.
White nationalists are the ultimate evolution of white supremacy and bigotry; they are the Hulk to white supremacy’s Bruce Banner, only whiter and more violent. White nationalists believe that America should be a white, Christian ethno-state; and their goal is to remove all non-Christian, nonwhite people from the country in any way they can.
It is virtually impossible to achieve this goal through democratic means, so white nationalists advocate violence and policies that will marginalize and limit the power and numbers of nonwhite people in America.
So when Trump says that some of the people in Charlottesville’s Unite the Right march were “good people,” he’s saying that he thinks terrorism is OK. When he refers to the death of Heather Heyer and the beating of Deandre Harris and dozens of others as “criminal acts” instead of terrorism, he’s saying that white nationalists broke the law, but they did not threaten his conception of the state.
When Jeff Sessions initiates policies to suppress minority voting, he’s pushing white nationalist policies. When Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon develop a “Muslim ban” and new immigration policy to limit immigrants from nonwhite countries, they’re working on the white nationalist goal of the white ethno-state.
They are all terrorist sympathizers, and they know it, and are blatant about it. Question is: What do you do about it?
First, recognize that as a person of color, you’re on your own until this man is out of office. That means that protecting ourselves financially, educationally, politically and even physically becomes essential.
The last time African Americans faced a president who openly sympathized with a terror state was almost 100 years ago with Woodrow Wilson. Wilson’s two terms in office, from 1914 to 1921, were filled with internecine violence against black people by police, aided and abetted by white vigilantes and condoned by a president who threw civil rights leaders out of the White House and reversed existing anti-discrimination policies.
Black people responded to Wilson by focusing our money and resources on our own community, supporting black newspapers to provide real information about the community, starting black organizations and supporting black art. We did not retreat to our enclaves, but emboldened and infused them with our money and time. Madam C.J. Walker’s best business years were during the Wilson administration; A. Philip Randolph started The Messenger, a black socialist newspaper; Carter G. Woodson founded the first black think tank.
These weren’t “feel good” activities; they were counterterrorism strategies, placing the financial, educational and political power of black people back into our own hands, making alliances where needed, while primarily depending on our own resources.
In modern times, that means supporting black newspapers and sites, supporting and funding anti-white nationalist fighters and organizations; and yes, it means public actions like getting gun licenses, applying for jobs as police officers, serving on juries, and, believe it or not, even tweeting the hell out of terror-supporting political leaders and policymakers so they don’t get to operate in darkness.
History tells us that the Trump terrorism presidency will not be short, it will not be kind and it will not end easily. His allies in the white nationalist movement, emboldened by his tacit consent, will continue to attack and kill all across the nation, with deaths moving from speeding cars to Oklahoma City-level violence.
The best hope of the black community is to rely upon the strategies and resources of the past to survive and get out of this alive on the other side.
Which, if we’re lucky, will only take about eight years.