We Are All Complicit

We are all complicit with the insurrection event at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Yes, that’s a bold statement to make especially as someone who is typically apolitical. But bear with me as I try to dissect this down and explain myself.

The Trump Insurrection wasn’t a spontaneous event. It was the culmination of years of hatred from a larger number of whites in this country toward anyone who is different. Whether they are black, brown, Jewish, gay, transgender, or just different. We all know someone who has made racial comments and then laughed them off when they realized we didn’t think it was funny. I admit that I have because I didn’t want to have an argument or disagreement with anyone. It’s also obvious that if I had agreed, the conversation would have been full on racist or anti-semitic or anti-LGBTQ, but my discomfort prevented me from having that conversation and for that, I feel disgusted with myself today. 

Several years ago I moved from the Northeast to Mississippi because my now ex-husband had gotten a job offer. At the time, I thought it would be like the Northeast, but just hotter. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While 38% of the state is African American, 80% of Jackson, the state’s capital, is African-American, making the state home to the highest number of African Americans in any state in the country. Yet, African Americans and other minorities have been and continue to be sorely underrepresented in positions of power here as well as across the country.  

I’ve lived in Boston and Philadelphia and New York and I’m acutely aware of what racism looks like. But Mississippi was different. It was the first place where complete strangers felt comfortable saying overtly racist comments to me simply because we shared the same skin color. But little did they know just how different I am from them. 

Why didn’t I confront them? Out of my own discomfort for not wanting to go “there” with a stranger.

My father is German and the woman who gave birth to me is Puerto Rican. So while I have blue eyes, light skin, and red hair (clearly out of a bottle), I am no racist. I would change the conversation, pretend I had somewhere to go, and walk away. Why didn’t I confront them? Out of my own discomfort for not wanting to go “there” with a stranger. My son is Colombian and as a 10-year-old boy, I witnessed firsthand racism toward him. I’m not saying everyone in Mississippi is racist. What I am saying is that I witnessed racism toward a child. My child. And I didn’t like it then and still don’t like it now, but I was too quiet to speak up.

I’ve had the privilege of my white skin and an ability to assimilate into white culture effortlessly and without question.

I’ve had the privilege of my white skin and an ability to assimilate into white culture effortlessly and without question. However, it was necessary for me to tell my son at an early age what exactly to do should the police ever stop him. I had to advise this child to always keep his hands visible, do exactly what they tell you to do, and be respectful. This isn’t something white parents ever have to do with their children. Don’t believe me? Watch any “Karen” video circulating on social media. Watch any video or interview of the insurrectionists who feel that they are above the law and shouldn’t be arrested for merely going to the Capitol (their words). This is nothing less than pure unadulterated entitlement. 

That entitlement is what breeds racism, which only leads to extremists who actually believe white supremacy is ok. They want to “take back our country” and they want to “make America great again.” In other words, they want white America where black and brown people are not in positions of power and should  be controlled through things like suppression. They don’t believe in voter suppression, gerrymandering, or under representation, but they believe in terms like voter identification, which on the surface appears benign. I won’t go into the specifics on any of this because if you’re reading this, you already know about this. Why I bring it up is because I truly believe that many of them seriously believe that it is about voter identification, an unfair and “rigged” election, and not racism. 

But, and this is a big but, Trump allowed these people who were only whispering and muttering their thoughts under their breath their entire lives to find others who also thought like them.

I don’t believe that all whites or all Trump supporters are racist. However, I do believe that many of them subscribe to beliefs, either passed down through their family, their environment or indoctrination, that supports racism. But, and this is a big but, Trump allowed these people who were only whispering and muttering their thoughts under their breath their entire lives to find others who also thought like them. Once they did and once he fueled it by allowing these thoughts to become mainstream, they felt like they belonged to something bigger and felt accepted. Perhaps they would’ve rejected this in the past, but with so many saying the same thing, it somehow became not only commonplace, but acceptable.

And where were the rest of us? We’ve been doing what most normal Americans do after their candidate loses. We retreat and keep our fingers crossed that we can get a better candidate for the next race. All of us saw the constant vitriol that started at the top and moved it’s way down until it was repeated by our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. What did we do? We generally ignored it because of the discomfort we might feel for hitting it head on. And that is why we are where we are today. 

It’s imperative that every single person in our country understand that equality is for all, not just for those that are white.

Let’s start by confronting racism head on with those we know personally. Then work on implementing more education the children of this country on what racism is as well as including more people of color in textbooks and including topics that should be mandatory in all schools like slavery, the impact African Americans held in positions of power after the abolishment of slavery and how this relates to current day politics, World War I and II, Hitler, and the Holocaust, and the the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s among others. While some schools do an amazing job of teaching an expansive and inclusive view of history, others fall far behind. We need to learn from the past in order not to make the same mistakes we’ve made again. It’s imperative that every single person in our country understand that equality is for all, not just for those that are white. 

I will no longer be a part of the problem, but of the solution to ending racism and white supremacy in this country. 

It’s time for us to speak up and stop being afraid of discomfort. Screw discomfort when our brothers and sisters of color, our fellow Americans, have lived a life where they’ve endured  racism and so have their parents and their parents, and so on. I will no longer avoid difficult conversations or unfollow (but not unfriend) friends on FaceBook because of their blatantly racist posts that I hope will pass over. I encourage everyone else to do the same. If you’re reading this and disagree, I urge you to unfollow or unfriend me as well. I will no longer be a part of the problem, but of the solution to ending racism and white supremacy in this country. 

I wrote this before the “1776 Report” was released on January 18, 2021 by the Trump administration. This poorly cited and written document is anything but informative as it tries to suggest a rewrite of our history. I highly suggest reading the 1619 Project instead.

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