Institutional racism exists in America whether we talk about it or not, but so many people propose silence as its cure. You’ve likely heard the argument that talking about racism keeps it alive, and that activist groups like Black Lives Matter, or even just the average Joe who knows the racial history of the United States, cause division by talking about racial issues. They are labelled “race baiters” or”racial.” When they talk about bigotry, they’re told they want special treatment. The results are devastating. Lawrence Otis Graham wrote a piece for the Washington Post that described how this ideology affected his son after someone called him the N-word for the first time:
“Despite his reluctance, I insisted that he report the incident to the school. His chief concern was not wanting the white students and administrators to think of him as being special, different, or ‘racial.’ That was his word. ‘If the other kids around here find out that I was called a nigger, and that I complained about it,’ my son pleaded, ‘then they will call me ‘racial,’ and will be thinking about race every time they see me. I can’t have that.’ For the next four weeks of the summer program, my son remained leery of cars that slowed in his proximity (he’s still leery today). He avoided sidewalks, choosing instead to walk on campus lawns. And he worried continually about being perceived as racially odd or different.”
Read the full piece to find out why, despite their financial privilege, Graham’s family could not avoid racism and white supremacy intimidated his son into silence even in the face of blatant abuse. His trauma had no social currency with his white peers and would only serve to ostracize him. They would only accept him if he ignored his race and the pain that came with it. James Baldwin described this oppression during a 1968 Q&A with Esquire Magazine:
“We are a nation within a nation, a captive nation within a nation. Yes, and you do flaunt it. You talk about us as thought we were not there. The real pain, the real danger is that white people have always treated Negroes this way. You’ve always treated Sambo this way. We always were Sambo for you, you know we had no feelings, we had no ears, no eyes. We’ve lied to you for more than a hundred years and you don’t even know it yet. We’ve lied to you to survive.”
Maya Angelou’s poem, “The Mask,” showed why denying racial pain was necessary to survive for centuries.
Baldwin and Angelou described the silence that white supremacy demanded from black people(and really all people of color in some form) and continues to demand today. Anyone who defies it will suffer a social attack, as opposed to the physical attacks endured during the Civil Rights Movement. This of course excludes Donald Trump’s rallies, where even shoving a black woman isn’t below a group of white males, but when black people even hint at speaking up for racial justice, they are met with social backlash. Look at how people responded to Beyoncé’s Super Bowl 50 halftime performance. Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET Awards sparked a petition for his termination that read:
“I’m shocked that someone who wants equality would spew such divisive rhetoric. Jesse is dividing rather than unifying. Everyone should be encouraging Unity. Double standards should not exist. Apparently, Shonda thinks this is her world and she can do whatever she wants. Jesse’s rant only fuels racism and further divides Americans. All races must unify and take a stand against this.”
Meanwhile unarmed black people are still disproportionately shot and killed by police in the United States. Investigators found racial bias in Ferguson, Chicago, and Baltimore police departments. Discussing an issue so deadly that United Nations officials disparage it(along with killings of the police), and multiple country’s recommend stronger legislation to stop it, is not divisive. Ignoring systematic racism, and telling people affected by it to do the same, most certainly is. White supremacy argues otherwise and has for quite some time. Look at the letters Martin Luther King Jr. received, and you will find they resemble the complaints lobbied against Black Lives Matter. Writers said he ignored “black crime”(as if crime can be racial in such a way), blamed him for riots, accused him of threatening white people despite his nonviolent protests, and commanded he return his Nobel Peace Prize. One letter said Dr. King was “inciting” black people. It resembled the current”All Lives Matter” argument:
“It would be well if every American Negro compared his position and opportunity with that of his race in other countries. He would find that in none does the Negro have the advantages the United States gives him. As justified as may be many of the demands Negroes make, they are not the only matter of importance in the world.”
The similarities continue. J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI labelled Dr. King’s speeches as demagogic and called him the most “dangerous Negro of the future in this nation.” Now people are calling for Black Lives Matter, unarmed protesters, to be listed as a domestic terrorist organization and comparing them to ISIS, a group that literally beheads people on camera. This petition flies in the face of the FBI’s current definition of domestic terrorism that requires “acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law; appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping.” Unless signs, strong language, demands for police accountability after a shooting even if it means suffering the the death penalty like any civilian, and policy initiatives endanger human life, Black Lives Matter is not a domestic terrorist organization. That didn’t stop Tomi Lahren from calling Black Lives Matter the “New KKK,” comparing black activists who openly march the streets without killing anyone to white supremacist murderers who hid their identities behind white hoods as they lynched black people, burned crosses on their lawns, and bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. When Black Lives Matter kills four innocent girls under the age of 15, maybe then Lahren’s comparison will make sense. Until then, it doesn’t apply.
Black Lives Matter was also blamed for the tragic deaths of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Micah Johnson acted alone and showed signs of post traumatic stress disorder before he attacked officers in Dallas. Gavin Long posted a video demanding that no one affiliate him with any group before he shot police officers in Baton Rouge, and DeRay Mckesson, a prominent voice for Black Lives Matter, called for peace in response to Long’s actions. Matt Walsh blamed Black Lives Matter for the Milwaukee riot on August 13th following the police-shooting of Sylville Smith,(a shooting that we have yet to see is justified or not until the body cam video comes out), but Black Lives Matter has no chapter in Milwaukee according to their official website. So how could they have rioted there hours after the shooting? Lahren posted a video blaming Black Lives Matter for the riots in Milwaukee as well. I asked her for any information concerning Black Lives Matter’s role . She, along with Walsh, did not respond, though Walsh had little issue replying to other comments.
People who saw the riots had answers. Leon Brown, 32, from Milwaukee, said he walked by the riot and saw people standing by the burning gas station, but he saw no signs of an organized protest. He said it was just a “bunch of kids” who mistakenly thought they were making a stand against injustice.
“I don’t think they knew the concept,” Brown said. “Number one, you’re tearing up your own community. Two, a couple innocent people got hurt and the media made it sound like they were targeting white people.”
Brown said when kids attacked passing civilians, a group of black adults actually stopped them, but that didn’t make it in the video clips in the media. Fredrick Perry, 25, from Milwaukee , is a special education teacher for Milwaukee Public Schools. He said blaming peaceful protesters for the riots in Milwaukee is foolish and people in the neighborhood who didn’t follow Black Lives Matter’s agenda were the rioters.
“Look up any other situations in this city and you will never find a violent crime on behalf of BLM,” Perry said. “The same thing happened two weeks ago, and [Matt Walsh] didn’t post anything about it. This has been going on for years, and no one says anything about it. This happens and now they’re associating this with Black Lives Matter. I think he had some kind of agenda against it or maybe he just doesn’t know.”
There was an activist organization present at the scene of the riots. Milwaukee’s Coalition for Justice led a neighborhood prayer and clean up the following morning.
Black Lives Matter and Dr. King have quite a few differences, but they do have one similarity. White supremacy demands they be silent or suffer social demonizing. Despite the elimination of slavery and Jim Crow, this recycled desire for black silence only shows that white supremacy persists and wishes black people only speak when addressed and seldom on the subject of our advancement, smile and entertain when asked, and shut up when we’re told. Beyoncé wasn’t scolded and boycotted for a bad performance but for raising her black fist. Jesse Williams wasn’t petitioned for his performance on Grey’s Anatomy but for speaking against police brutality, along with raising his black fist. A Vanderbilt study found that black academics are expected to “entertain” while presenting research to white peers. “All Lives Matter” is a hashtag response to Black Lives Matter, but it’s a redundant statement with no movement behind it. It only serves to tell someone to shut up about black pain because white supremacy ignores it. Some even attempt to use Christianity as a manipulative boot to stomp out black voices on racism(see comments to the right).
There is only one explanation for this frantic effort to shut down black voices going as far back as Dr. King’s legacy. White supremacy must kill black voices to survive much like a snake must kill a bird before it takes flight. Once a bird rises too high, it is out of range of the snake’s suffocating grasp and the snake can’t eat it. When black people get too smart, too educated, too rebellious, we can no longer be controlled. So when we speak out, we must be fired, boycotted, and smeared or else we might spread our wings and fly. Anyone who supports white supremacy fears that flight because it will kill the established caste system, and society will have no choice but to respect all people as equals and actually behave like all lives matter.
When true equality thrives, white supremacy will go extinct. That is why white nationalist organizations support Donald Trump during this election. Some say he hopes to “Make America Great Again,” but when was America great for anyone but white people? Was it during slavery? Maybe it was during Jim Crow. How about the Ronald Reagan era during which the CIA was linked to the crack epidemic that hit black neighborhoods in California? Perhaps America was “great” during Richard Nixon’s Drug War, which one of his top aides admitted targeted and disenfranchised black communities because they “couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black.” Trump’s “great” America would likely feed the hungry snake that is white supremacy. It needs him to survive, so it made him the Republican nominee.
This statement must be made so there is no room for spin. White supremacy, not white people, must die out. When people of color are allowed to speak out against it, society will be forced to realize the harm it has caused and stop feeding it. Silence is not the cure for racism. Action always is. Anyone who fails to realize that is only feeding the snake that will grow and constrict the United States. Dr. King understood that, and it’s time we learned now.
Starve racism, my friends.