Perhaps no quote better captures the worldwide indifference to the treatment of black bodies than that quote from Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, one of the few countries that have never been colonized by Europeans.
In 1936, after Italy dictator Benito Mussolini invaded Selassie’s homeland using mustard gas, killing thousands of Ethiopians, Selassie begged European nations to condemn the invasion and fascism in general. Selassie warned against the rising European fascists saying, “It is us today, it will be you tomorrow.” Even though the invasion violated the League of Nations rules, Europe did nothing until it was too late.
Their inaction was understandable. Racism and nationalism were becoming popular in Europe under the new political ideology of fascism. Mussolini was popular, powerful and would soon join forces with another rising fascist, Adolph Hitler. Europe was reluctant to condemn Italy’s aggression because they didn’t want to upset the apple cart.
Today, most historians point to the Second Italo-Ethiopian war as the start of this little-known thing called World War II.
It is true when they say, “silence is deadly.” Refusing to choose a side does not prevent war, and often enables it. When people are being oppressed or mistreated, inaction is an act of violence in itself.
When talking about inequality, we tend to focus on the obvious targets while ignoring the people who support structural inequality with inaction or silent complicity. The white women who sat on the porch sipping mint juleps benefitted from slavery as much as the whip-wielders. Mediocre white students benefitted from colleges not accepting black students during segregation.
Contrary to popular belief, Rosa Parks never sat in the white section of that Montgomery Bus. She was sitting in the black section when bus driver James Blake moved the colored section sign behind the seat where Parks was already seated, all because white passengers would rather stand than to sit in the “colored” section. Not one white person objected because they benefitted from the empty seat after she was arrested.
And white people benefit from having a commander in chief who supports white supremacy.
Yes, all white people.
On Sunday, Georgia State Sen. Michael Williams (R) went on CNN’s New Day to give a tutorial on how to keep your hands clean while supporting white supremacy when he hemmed, hawed and whitesplained why it is ok for a racist to be in charge of the country.
When asked by host Victor Blackwell whether or not it mattered if Donald Trump has used the n-word, Williams said that he would find it personally offensive, but he didn’t care if Donald Trump said it outside the capacity of President of the United States.
“It would matter as a individual,” Williams explained, “It would not necessarily matter to me as the person that is running our country.” Williams added:
“He has his own personal beliefs ... his personal ideas. But I truly believe he is able to separate those from how he is running the country,” Williams continued, adding whitely: “He did not use the n-word as the office of the president ... in that office, he used it outside his personal life. If he was president and he goes onTV and uses the n-word, yes, I would have a major problem with that. But he did it before he was president.”
“I would always say that using the n-word is wrong and it’s bad and should never be accepted in our society. But just because he might have done it years ago not as our president doesn’t mean we need to continue to berate him because he used it.”
Williams went on to explain that Donald Trump is old, so he shouldn’t be vilified for racism because it was ok back then. Apparently, Williams seems to think that there was a time when the n-word was acceptable.
Let’s be clear:
There was never a time when white people using the n-word was not racist. But there was a time when white people could use the n-word without facing any consequences, only because other white people didn’t care.
Black people always wanted to punch n-word spewing white people in the throat. It was the fear of nooses and shotguns that held stopped black people from retaliating. Whether it was an all-white jury or a lynch mob, the only thing that ever made the n-word ok was white people’s silence.
And this is why white supremacy exists.
White supremacy is a system implemented by white people in power, but it is upheld by the majority of people like Michael Williams who do nothing to change it and will offer razor-thin slices of parsed reasoning why he doesn’t care about it
Williams believes it is “bad” and unacceptable for anyone to say the n-word, but it is ok for a person who is bad and unacceptable to lead the free world. The Georgia State Senator is willing to excuse Trump’s racism because Donald Trump is a Republican. For him, and the rest of the GOP, it is more important to keep their party in power than to worry about the marginalization of millions of their constituents. Williams holds these views because he benefits from a racist being in power.
Moreover, Williams is willing to separate the racist reality show Trump from racist president Trump because he isn’t personally affected by Trump’s white nationalist tendencies. This is also why structural equality will always remain, because whites aren’t personally affected by it.
When white judges give black people sentences that are 20 percent longer than whites who commit the same crime, whites are willing to stay obliviously silent because racial disparities in the criminal justice system don’t affect them. It continues because the vast majority of white people (75 percent) believe blacks are treated equally by the courts according to Pew Research, despite the infinite amount of research data proving otherwise.
Sixty-Six percent of white people believe that blacks are treated fairly by banks because they don’t have to worry about new millennium redlining that is pervasive in the mortgage industry. Therefore, they don’t speak up about legislation removing requirements for some banks to report racial and demographic data.
In almost every major city in America, most black and Hispanic kids attend schools where a majority of students qualify as poor or low-income, according to the Atlantic. Even though low-income student bodies is the number one indicator of the racial education gap, there is less of an outcry from white America about this than there is about black Santa or negro Jesus. And it’s not as if they don’t know. According to Pew, 75 percent of whites agree that lower quality schools are a major reason for inequality.
This is why white supremacy will never die.
It is not cross-burnings and Nazi rallies, it is because white people are all too eager to ignore inequality when it benefits them. They are willing to excuse the racism of their friends, family members and President as long as it is in private.
After all, why would anyone upset the apple cart if they owned so much apple stock?
Donald Trump is a racist. At every turn he has demonstrated a presidential prejudice against blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and anyone who does not need a tanning bed to turn their skin the color of peach Faygo. Trump supporters might not outwardly support his white supremacy, but they won’t lift a finger to dismantle it. They won’t use their voices to condemn it.
Even if one prefers conservative policy or just hates Hillary, silence, inaction and carefully-parsed indifference still equal support. And supporting a racist is an act of racism. Therefore all Trump supporters are racist.
Every single one.
But I agree with Senator Williams on one point: It also does not matter to me whether or not there is a recording of Donald Trump calling someone the n-word. Because, just like the inaction of people willing to overlook white supremacy for the sake of power, contentment or just an empty seat on the bus ...
The apathy of white America screams “nigger” every day.