White Americans the white terrorist attack on our Capitol must be our turning point. We created white supremacy, we benefit from it, we continue to be the majority and to hold disproportionate power. It doesn’t go away without us relinquishing it.
We must be the generation to recognize the fully equal humanity of every human being and actively engage in fighting for it.
Think about the outcry that would happen right now if a foreign power or any other group of Americans attacked the US Capitol. There would be outrage and demands for widespread accountability.
Why are so few white people demanding accountability of ourselves?
For generations Black Americans have implored white Americans to step up. To face who we are and transform. To see Black people as our full human equals, stop killing them, and not conspire against, thwart nor be threatened by their success.
And for generations, white Americans have made excuses and turned away.
“That’s not me.”
“That was a long time ago. Why can’t they just get over it?”
“I am not responsible.”
“I don’t have privilege. I worked hard for everything I have.”
“I don’t have a racist bone in my body.”
“I don’t see color.”
“I would have voted for Obama for a third term.”
“They shouldn’t protest that way. It’s divisive.”
“What about Black on Black crime?”
“If they would just pull up their pants, everything would be fine.”
“This isn’t who we are.”
This is PRECISELY who we are.
We are a country founded on white supremacy upheld by 400+ years of white mob violence and white complicity with white mob violence.
Yet every time white mob violence erupts, white Americans act as if it’s unfathomable.
White mobs inflicting terror on everyone else is the lifeblood of white supremacy.
Resmaa Menakem teaches us in My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies white mob violence was prevalent in Europe for centuries before our ancestors immigrated to America. Slavery required all white people’s violence. White people either inflicted violence ourselves, or watched others inflict violence and did nothing to stop it, or if we tried to stop the violence, white people attacked us. White people today are carrying intergenerational secondary vicarious trauma from the violence our ancestors inflicted. We are unwilling to confront this trauma, to be accountable for it, to atone and transform because it hurts.
To avoid this pain, we dig deeper into our illusion of superiority and become enraged by any threat to our self-image.
As Dr. Carol Anderson teaches us in White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation’s Divide, in each generation, every time Black people made progress, white mobs beat them back.
White liberals like to claim we are not bad like them- the Trump supporters- while supporting policies that will make median Black net wealth be zero by 2053, decrying “defund the police” as too radical, and depending on Black women and other women of color organizers to win elections, but not resourcing them, following and supporting their leadership, nor enacting policies that support their communities well being. We are white supremacists, too, white liberals.
This has to stop, white people. It has to stop right now, with you and me looking ourselves in the mirror.
In what way am I responsible for the white supremacist terrorist attack on the US Capitol? In what ways do I benefit from and maintain white supremacy? How will I change myself? What will I role model to my kids? How will I hold myself, my acquaintances, family members, coworkers to account?
How will I step aside from my position and promote Black and Brown people to ascend? How will I spend down my privilege?
Who will hold me to account? With whom will I unite to transform our society from the grassroots up? What will we do together to change our relationships, our workplaces, communities, police forces, policies and practices? How will we measure our success?
As Ibram X. Kendi guides us: “this is not who we are must become, in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol: This is precisely who we are. And we are ashamed. And we are aggrieved at what we’ve done, at how we let this happen. But we will change. We will hold the perpetrators accountable. We will change policy and practices. We will radically root out this problem. It will be painful. But without pain there is no healing.”
Karen Fleshman Esq. she/her is a single soccer mom, mentor, activist, entrepreneur, attorney, author, educator, and proud San Franciscan. She is the founder of Racy Conversations, a workplace workshop facilitation company, with a mission to inspire the antiracist generation. She is seeking a publisher for her first book White Women We Need to Talk: Doing Our Part to End Racism.