In the last fourteen months, I have seen the most sustained outburst of insanity in my lifetime. It can be difficult to catalogue it all.
There were the 13 months of Donald Trump’s rambling speeches about an imaginary “deep state” hell-bent on ruining his legacy and destroying American capitalism and freedom. We watched as one video after another surfaced, documenting police shootings of unarmed men of color, and as police pepper sprayed a young teenage black girl. A white teenager boy rode with his mother to Kenosha, WI intent on murder – and he did just that and then calmly walked past the police with his gun in hand.
Federal officers in Portland, Oregon kidnapped and threw unarmed anti-racist protestors into unmarked vans and whisked them off to undisclosed locations. The Tennessee legislature made protesting on Capitol grounds a felony punishable with prison time and losing voting rights because Black Lives Matter activists did not just make their point for a few hours and politely go home. The former president had the police tear-gas anti-racist protestors so he could go to a church for a photo-op. And we watched as his speechwriter Stephen Miller made his rounds on national news programs spreading his lies and misinformation.
Finally, while Black Lives Matter protestors were met in Washington, DC with heavily armed riot police last summer, a handful of Capitol Police were dispatched to ineffectively contain thousands of unhinged Trump supporters incited to violence over the so-called “stolen election.” The end result was a dead police officer, four dead terrorists, and members of Congress huddled in their offices and safe rooms fearing for their lives. The contrast between how Black protesters and white protesters are treated by our racist system of law enforcement could not have been made more clear.
The racism on display in the lives and actions of our neighbors by our political leaders, and by police is undeniable. So are the torrent of lies and misinformation about the novel coronavirus the presidential election, promoted by white politicians and their white nationalist foot soldiers. Yet, white America continues to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to deny all of it.
Is it that that they are so insidiously evil that they can blithely overlook blatant racism, fascism, and bigotry? Or is it that white Americans are blinded by their privilege and skewed news sources?
Does it even matter?
After 2020, I have grown tired of understanding, of making excuses for the people that I grew up with and for those who fail to evolve. I am tired of having conversations. I want action. We have talked enough.
I now understand why great activists like James Baldwin had a deep mistrust, and even hatred, of white liberals (including those like me). We say we want to make a change, but we never actually make the effort to change anything. We join activist groups gather in social media echo chambers and talk about how much better we are in comparison to white-conservatives but we do nothing to dismantle the racist structures that we claim conservatives built.
The year just passed highlighted that the worst of humanity, and it did nothing to wake white people up, nor has the continuing health crisis brought us together. Rather, it has done just the opposite.
Maybe it is just time to admit to ourselves that we are never going to learn our lessons and make the world a better place.