Wednesday’s insurrection at the capitol was a historic example of how white privilege enables white violence.
Under the cloak of privilege, white Americans like myself can access spaces that others cannot. We can ignore gates, fences and law enforcement with minimal risk to ourselves, while the lives of people of color are often at risk without pushing any boundaries at all.
We white Americans frequently feel entitled to such access. Wednesday’s mobs illustrated the depths of this entitlement, from the current President’s refusal to accept the reality of certified election results to his “proud” followers fully acting out his delusions on primetime television. It was the culmination of a long season of white supremacy laid bare.
In the subconscious backdrop of this week’s events, millions of white Americans fear the loss of a white majority in the country. Represented by those adorned in confederate flags storming the capitol, they fear their own power shrinking and, with it, their expanded sense of access.
The shrinking white majority in the United States is actually a fulfillment of America’s central promise as a melting pot. It’s a six century healing, one that is braved even with new wounds formed in each century along the way. One that has been brewing ever slowly since this land was first colonized, since our twin original sins of Native American genocide and chattel slavery.
Yet hubris blinds us to Lady Liberty’s smile.
Racism conceals both the violence of white people and the brilliance and power of people of color. It taints our hearts, our communities, and our social networks. It seeks to justify even an attempted coup. And it keeps us from celebrating the true promise of a multiracial majority.
As we move into 2021, we white Americans must deepen our humility and further remove our blinders. Only then can we help defend our democracy, make healing possible, learn the beauty of power shared, and transform our guilt into sustained joyful action.