Edited by Dr. Lana Bates
First things first, this blog post is for Black people.
This is the nod we give one another as we cross paths in public.
It’s the way our eyes meet when we’re the only two in the room and something’s said that just doesn’t sit right.
From the Underground Railroad to The Green Book to Black Twitter, shout out to us for just knowing.
To add to our list of things we already knew, as white folks stand aghast at their own capacity for destruction, let’s hereby acknowledge that White Supremacy is as violent, reckless, dangerous, upheld, and protected as we’ve always known it to be.
We were right. We’ve always been right. And we tried to tell them.
We’ve known white supremacy, in all of its facets, for all of its existence because we directly suffer at its hands. We knew it when it stole our bodies and sought to break our spirits and negate our humanity during enslavement. We knew it when it terrorized, plundered, and burned down our communities during the brief period of Reconstruction. We knew it when it aimed to reduce our worth and put itself on a pedestal in the Jim Crow Era. We knew it when it made us out to be crazy as we demanded that democracy be actualized during the Civil Rights Era. And we damn sure know it now, because it’s never hidden itself.
So, this one’s for us. The folks who know America in her most true essence- her core.
Here are five things Black folks knew to be true about white supremacy long before the Capitol coup, and will know long after:
1. Law enforcement is a tool of white supremacy.
On Wednesday, January 06, 2021 we witnessed police officers escort insurrectionists inside of the Capitol building to partake in a coup. Some of these officers, we now know, were in on the plans from the beginning. These officers snapped photos with the insurrectionists and allowed them to enter the senate chamber and destroy government property without making a single arrest. This occurred while Black folks were murdered by police, just months earlier, for allegedly using counterfeit money, sleeping in their own beds, and reaching for their wallet to show identification when pulled over. We have always known that the police weren’t there to protect us- their origin story is in denying our freedom, brutalizing our bodies and being party to our dehumanization. We’ve been astutely aware of the sheer absurdity of macing, hosing, and attacking us as we advocated to see the full scope of our rights actualized. We’ve been privy to the fact that cops kill Black people because they know that they can (and even want to), and that they reward white citizens who do the same (Dylan Roof). We have known these things to be true. But to hear a white woman say“This is not America... They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM, but they’re shooting the patriots,” makes it viscerally real (from The Nation).
White people actually believe that this stolen country that enslaved people built belongs to them. And they have an entire armed police force (and government, justice system, educational system, and healthcare system) to back up that belief.
The utter delusion of it all is audacious and astonishing.
2. White Supremacy is more violent than we could ever be.
We watched as white people violently overtook the Capitol grounds with nooses, guns, confederate flags, bombs and Trump banners to halt a democratic government process- all in service of a lie.
It’s the same type of violence we see when they call the cops on us, deem our children to be threats, criminalize our Black men, and hyper-sexualize our girls’ bodies. White supremacy does and takes what it wants while using anti-Blackness as its means to an end. It’s allowed to because it’s functioning as intended and therefore cannot be held accountable.
This is the same way whiteness isn’t held accountable when Black folks are talked over in meetings, gaslighted for telling the truth about racism, have their work or ideas taken without credit, are forced to coddle the feelings of white people, are paid less for doing more, and are forced to suffer through white coworkers who do not speak up publicly but want to discuss racism behind closed doors.
We know whiteness as violence in a litany of forms, with silence about white supremacy being one of the deadliest. This coup simply made visible for white people what we’ve understood for generations.
3. There’s always a white-lash.
History told us this was coming. Black advancement and white rage are like peanut butter and jelly. From the lynchings of our grandparents’ time to the coup of ours. If Tulsa teaches us anything, it’s that there has always been violent white responses to Black success. Between Kamala becoming VP and Stacey Abrams turning Georgia blue, it was only a matter of time.
Indeed, Trump’s election itself was a white-lash. White America couldn’t handle seeing an intelligent, poised, likable Black man with a beautiful Black family in the White House without revolting. Of course, they clapped back in the most egregious way- by electing a manifestation of white supremacy, xenophobia, and sexism. Trump is white rage personified.
This happens, too, in our daily lives (i.e. being shut down at work when our innovative ideas are too well-liked or getting passed up for the promotion after outshining the supervisor). Whiteness loves to flex its power- and Blackness is its favorite prey.
4. White folks will enable white supremacy under the guise of policies and “differences in opinion”.
Trump has told us, clearly, that this is who he is for quite some time. Long before he became president, he ran ads in the newspaper incriminating the Central Park Five, despite their innocence. His businesses faced discrimination lawsuits. He spread lies about Obama and called Charlottesville neo-Nazis "very fine people", while referring to Mexicans as criminals and Colin Kaepernick as a SOB.
His racist rhetoric led to policies such as the Muslim ban, kids locked in cages, building a wall at the border, and a ban on diversity trainings.
But, Maya Angelou told us that when someone tells us who they are, we should believe them the first time. We knew this was who he was, and white folks did, too- that’s why they elected him (and why they tried to do it again in 2020).
Trump did what Reagan did before him in pushing a “Welfare Queen” and “tough on crime” narrative. This has never been about policies to benefit the people. It has always been about using racism as a tool to advance capitalism (given that the foundation of capitalism is slavery, this makes sense). White folks have consistently been willing to turn a blind eye to the racism that is inherent in capitalism, appealing to the latter without recognizing the former as its premise, as doing so only serves to benefit them in the end.
We know that there is no “voting for Trump because he’s a businessman who can steer our country in the right direction” or “fiscal Republicanism”. There’s only permission to allow racism in its most subtly familiar forms: capitalism and politics.
5. White folks will promote white supremacy and then act surprised and hide their hands after the damage is done.
Just as Trump’s supporters knew exactly who he was, so, too did his cronies. And now that he’s taken things further than they can get away with, they want to decry his actions. They’re playing the card of white innocence. But, they knew what they were doing, they enabled him, and they benefited from it all. It’s too late to resign now and jump the proverbial sinking ship.
There’s no surprise for us here because, again, this happens at work all the time. White folks foster a hostile work environment in which racist comments, attitudes, and actions go unchecked, code switching is expected, and Black folks are deemed outsiders. Then they appear shocked when Black people a) do not want to work at their company or b) publicly call them out. They’ll be racist the whole way through and then feign surprise or ignorance at the consequences.
All of this is to say that Donald Trump is a manifestation of all that we’ve known about whiteness. And, in alignment with the narcissistic nature of white supremacy, the only reason this is now an issue is because it’s affecting white people, too.
Black folks, give yourselves a pat on the back. Take a day off. Rest, knowing, as Toni Morrison reminds us, that we’ve always had the moral high ground. And remain assured that there is joy in the morning. There has always been joy in the morning, in spite of the perils of these United States, because we have always made it so.