Maybe the hardest I’ve ever laughed and the hardest I’ve ever been punched happened on the same day for the same reason. I don’t even remember what my older cousin was trying to cook, but I know it involved toasting four pieces of bread. Ever the impatient one, Reggie loomed over the toaster, wondering what was taking the appliance so long. Was this thing even on?
He must have been really hungry because, after a minute or so, he bent over the toaster to see if the elements were heated (I must admit, this is just a rough guess of his motives; we’ve never really discussed this incident in depth). And just as Reggie’s eyes were peering directly into the slots, about an inch from the appliance, it happened.
When the bread was ejected, tiny crumbs of baked bread flew into Reggie’s eyes, at which I laughed for days. But it wasn’t just the sight of breadcrumbs in my cousin’s eyes that made me laugh. It was the sentence that still doubles me over with laughter every time I think about my cousin calling for help from our maternal grandparent by screaming:
“Grandma, I think I’m blind ... I got toast in my eye!”
In this past week alone, three incident of racial terrorism battled for headline space at news outlets across America. On Wednesday, Gregory Bush walked into a supermarket in Louisville, Ky. and allegedly killed two black patrons. Video surveillance footage shows Bush attempting to enter a predominately black church moments before the shooting, only to discover the doors to the church were not open.
The story quickly faded when “suspicious packages” began showing up at the homes of prominent Democrats and journalists who shared a common status as targets of the president’s repeated insults and denigration. Even though the impotent pipe bombs allegedly sent by Cesar Sayoc might stand as one of the biggest assassination plots in history, it would not stand as the No. 1 news story for long. On Saturday, a gunman with apparent white nationalist leanings opened fire on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killing 11 innocent worshippers.
In the wake of these incidents, people will adjust the narrative to fit whichever cause they support. They will talk up the need for gun reform. Someone will inevitably probably point to the importance of mental health care while others will attribute the act to a lack of armed security (as our president did). But all of the circular logic will skirt the one inescapable reason that tragedies like this are becoming increasingly more prevalent:
White people are afraid and this is what they do when they are afraid. It is a recurring historical truth that has existed since Christopher Columbus did not step foot on American soil. Whenever this country brings up the prospect of equality; whenever white America faces an existential change; whenever their fears are stoked by someone for political gain, white people do the same thing.
The Ku Klux Klan is not a hate group. It is a fear group founded when a bunch of white guys started wondering what was going to happen when all those slaves they had beaten and shat upon for almost a century suddenly became citizens and had the right to own guns.
The Red Summer of 1919, where “racial unrest” resulted in mass lynchings across the country, happened in part because black soldiers returned from World War I with a newly gained social status and respect, scaring some white people that they might become lower than the Negro heroes. It’s why they threw Molotov cocktails at Freedom Riders who just wanted to ride a bus. It’s why they put a bullet through Martin Luther King Jr.’s jaw.
It’s why they insist that “All Lives Matter” to deflect from disproportionate police killings. It’s why Dylann Roof went to Emanuel AME’s bible study. It’s why they bombed Black Wall Street. It’s why they questioned Obama’s birth certificate and burned him in effigy. It’s why George Zimmerman pulled a gun on a teenager and why Philando Castile was shot dead.
The synagogue mass shooting/hate crime/terrorist act, the Kroger killings and the MAGABomber are all scary. They are tragedies. They are blights upon an American society that is supposedly built on freedom and equality.
They are also exactly what we should have expected.
None of these incidents have anything to do with hate, mental health or guns. White people have been crazy for a while; there are as many guns now as there were during the Obama administration and, despite what people would have you believe, Trump hasn’t turned anyone into a racist.
But to paraphrase our great purveyor of white male pattern boldness, he alone is responsible for this.
Even though he has turned the presidency into a laughingstock, Donald Trump is among the most powerful and is probably the most famous human being in the universe. He is universally known, and the world—even his detractors—hangs on his every word,
It’s time we stop equivocating and openly acknowledge that this insanely famous man, whose words might be the most influential in the world, is a white nationalist. That is not an opinion. He says what white nationalists say. He does what white nationalists do. White nationalists even admit it.
So what did we think would happen when this powerful voice tells the world that there are “good” people on the side of white supremacy? We’ve seen his acolytes whipped into a protester-punching frenzy at his command. He literally told us that his followers wouldn’t care if he committed murder. It was not a metaphor for murder, so how the hell can we be surprised when there is a murder or two... or 11?
When Donald Trump calls the press the “enemy of the people,” why wouldn’t at least one of the tens of millions of people who hear that and treat the members of the press as an actual enemy? We know what the dog-whistle term “globalist” means. We see Trump give credence to people like Alex Jones, who spreads ludicrous conspiracy theories about Obama, Hillary Clinton and Soros killing, conspiring and even enabling a child sex-trafficking ring. Who would cry over a sex-trafficking pedophile?
If you lay down with neo-Nazis (including hiring them as advisers), you get anti-semitism and attacks on Jews. If, according to Trump, the Democrats are ruining America, then a serial bomber would, using Trump logic, be a hero savior.
No one should be surprised that any of this happened. We should be shocked, given Trump’s rhetoric and his reach, that it doesn’t happen more often.
It will happen again. More people will die specifically because of the kind of environment that this president has created. He has enabled and legitimized hate. Normal, balanced people won’t likely go as far. They just might simply use the n-word in the Winn-Dixie or call the police on a cookout. But it all ties back to Trump’s America.
The same thing that makes Trump’s minions laugh and chant will eventually make us all cry. We cannot be surprised when someone puts white supremacy into a toaster and white hot hate and fear pops out.
This country is blind. America has hate in its eye.