For the fourth time in our nation's history, white America is blowing everything up in order to maintain a strict racial hierarchy. Every time this country has come close to realizing its radical potential as a place of lawful peace among diversity, white people revolt and burn everything to the ground. It is, in fact, the most precise history of these united states; the grand through-line of our democratic experiment is not the so-called "American Dream," but the near perfect record white Americans have of meeting all claims against their authority with a storm of violence and oppression.
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960's may have earned Black Americans the right to vote and "equal" protection under the law, but the movement's leaders were murdered, and the revolutionary momentum of the movement was blunted and dispersed in the ensuing decades through an insidious war on drugs and a mass incarceration scheme that was simply slavery by another name.
A century before that, white people launched America's bloodiest war because the country dared to live up to its professed ideals and grant basic human rights to nearly 20% of the population. And four score and seven years before that, a relatively small group of white people decided they'd rather die than live as "slaves" under the rule of a distant king, dragging half a continent into a war over property, ego, and a dash of self-determination. Some of the causes of the Revolutionary War may have been righteous enough, but one needs only read beyond the Declaration of Independence's flowery opening to see it was largely a pissing contest between rich white men. After-all, for all its lofty ideals, Jefferson wrote those immortal words we now all recite by heart while he was busy raping the women in his household and whipping his own children. All the while, the other white men pretended not to see it, signing into law the unconscionable 3/5 compromise, and agreeing it was better to stay silent than to risk losing their own power.
And now here we are, 232 years later, and white people are still preemptively resorting to violence rather than agree other people are human beings too. White power is an odd sort of power. It is exclusive, defined less by what it is than by what it isn't. Which is why it is so tenuous and false. After-all, whiteness as we understand it today was solidified during and after the Civil War as a Hail Mary to hold onto power. Rather than allow poor European immigrants to side with others in their economic class, whiteness came into being to permanently lock Black Americans in the economic and social basement. With everyone ostensibly "free," white Americans needed to invent a new way to maintain control.
Through the years, this artificial classification of people into light and dark has become like a rope tied around a growing tree and forgotten. The country has blossomed, and reached incredible heights, and all the while the very trunk of our tree is being strangled by that damn rope.
We're living in a time of converging crises: pandemic, rising fascism, financial malfeasance, and ecological devastation. There are little fires everywhere, and we are all feeling the heat. It is all too easy for white Americans to look at racial injustice and say, "We'll deal with this later." After-all, it's what we've always done, throw Black Americans to the wolves as a diversion to mount our escape into the blessed future. This time is different, though. There can be no future without justice. If we can't right this wrong, then we're lost.
We're witnessing the great unraveling of whiteness as a concept. Where the mid-to-late 19th century saw the invention of whiteness as a vast instrument designed to blunt the rise of the white working classes and to keep Black Americans in their place, neo-fascism is fracturing whiteness itself, chipping off pieces of the coalition to get to the hard, rotten core of the thing. Whiteness will no longer protect liberals, or Jews, or Antifa, or any other "class" of white-passing people this horrifying government deems unworthy.
Simply put: we're all in this together.
That it's required this apocalyptic moment for white Americans to finally realize this simple truth is one last terrible stain on our already blood-soaked record. White Americans are nothing if not consistent, and we're here at the table now only because we fear for ourselves. But we are here, and we need to put aside our guilt, and shame, and pride, and help in every way we can to eradicate the festering fascist tumor of hate that has grown unencumbered so near the heart of this American experiment. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, and there can be no future for any of us, unless there is a future for all of us. We have sat by for far too long while our Black brothers and sisters have been brutalized by a system we directly benefitted from, and which now has turned against us as well.
The time has come for white America to stop, listen, learn, and find our place in the great army of the just. We owe Black Americans this at least. They've worked too hard and for too long, endured too much for us to abandon them now.
There can be no peace, unless there is peace for all. And that is, finally, something truly worth fighting for.