My Fellow White Americans: Are We About Blood Identity — or America’s Ideals?
Enough! Yet another white supremacist carries out yet another bloody massacre — this time targeting Hispanics — in El Paso, Texas, leaving 22 dead.
To stanch this deadly trend, a trend fueled by our president’s racist and hate-filled rhetoric, it is past time for the white supremacist’s diametric opposite — the white American of conscience — to step up and act. I offer this resolution:
Whereas: Such denigration works insidiously to dehumanize non-white human beings, rendering them as lesser and not human and not American, thus justifying their subordination, deportation, murder;
Whereas: This dehumanization of non-white human beings is pre-eminently the agenda of the white supremacist, whose agenda Trump has championed, first with dog whistles and now with explicit racist appeals;
Whereas: White supremacists, decrying infestation and invasion, have carried out massacres in Charleston (in the former administration, killing blacks) and, in the Trump era, in Pittsburgh (killing Jews) and now El Paso (killing Hispanics);
And whereas: White supremacists, post-9/11, express virulent hatred of Muslims;
Be it therefore resolved: White Americans of conscience must unite in solidarity with all of our non-white fellow Americans, for the express purpose of establishing — at long last — that America is not about blood lines or blood identity. At our essence, America is about our foundational ideals of equality and justice for all citizens.
Having created America, white Americans have dominated its affairs throughout our history — a reality that white supremacists interpret as Divine Right.
Fearing the loss of that dominant power bequeathed by their forebears, and fearing their own replacement, white supremacists make a fetish of blood lines and blood identity, pointing with pride to their white European origins and the glories of a white Western civilization. As to America’s extraordinary expansion and growth, the white supremacist rationalizes the crime of exterminating the native American population and taking their lands as justified — “Conquered, not stolen.” And they rationalize the crime of slavery — America’s original sin, wherein white Americans engaged in a thriving African slave trade and prospered mightily from the shackled labor of men, women, and children — justifying this heinous subjugation on the grounds of Africans’ alleged inferiority. Similar “thinking” undergirds the hatred of Hispanics, Asians, others. To maintain white supremacy, violence is sanctioned.
The late, great Toni Morrison, the first African-American woman to be awarded the Nobel prize in literature, took the measure of this American history when she said such a civilization is “bereft.” As she declared so acutely: “If you can only be tall because someone is on their knees, then you have a serious problem.”
Donald Trump and other white supremacists need people who don’t look like them to be on their knees. They are, in a word, bereft.
Conscientious white Americans, on the other hand, do not want any of our fellow Americans on their knees. We want everyone to stand — and stand tall. As for blood lines or blood identity: They are of sociological interest to the individual, but they are not — repeat: not — mandatory for full participation in America’s democracy. It is our foundational ideals, notably those of equality and justice for all — endlessly espoused, never fully secured — as well as our shared humanity that should guide us at this perilous moment.
And best we act in solidarity with our non-white fellow Americans — black, Hispanic, Muslim-American, Asian-American, Jew. Solidarity marches in cities and towns, and solidarity events online, could project a powerful counterforce to the white supremacist’s hateful ideology, now mainstreamed, filling the media space and spreading dread. Civic and social organizations coming together to form coalitions under the equality-and-justice-at-long-last banner could serve as a force multiplier of individual effort. Social media campaigns dedicated to the cause could begin to mitigate the bilious hate driving so much “discussion” in the social media sphere.
This campaign to inject conscience into the battleground that now passes for the American commons will not be easy. And, indeed, making the argument for ideals over blood lines may cause problems with certain blood relatives. (It did for me: During the Obama administration, after I had written admiringly of Mr. Obama, I heard from a distant relative — “Don’t you understand we need to get that black man out of OUR White House?” So much for Christian teaching....) Reaching full equality will mean more competition for white Americans, which I believe is a big fear for the white supremacist, but more competition will redound to America’s benefit.
Again: Best if we conscientious white Americans make our argument in solidarity with our non-white fellow Americans. And if we finally achieve that New Day, if we make of the present breakdown a grand reckoning — for full equality and justice for all — we will become the opposite of bereft. We will become, finally, truly great.
For Toni Morrison’s essay, “Making America White Again,” published in The New Yorker just days after the 2016 election of Donald Trump, see here.