Even as we approach the seventh anniversary of the tragic mass murder of Black people attending a Bible study class at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC by an angry white boy, the nation is experiencing the stench of its rancid white supremacy.
In the 2015 Mother Emanuel massacre, the angry white boy was 21-year-old Dylann Roof. This weekend, Peyton Gendron, 18, joined the ranks when he stormed a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, and began shooting, killing 10 people.
And even though reports say that police were “on the scene in minutes,” I found myself remembering a Civil Rights leader from the 60s, Diane Nash, describing how even as Black protesters and allies were beaten by angry white mobs, the police did nothing, often standing on the sidelines watching or worse, participating in the violence themselves.
“We were not safe,” she said. “The police didn’t protect us.”
Gendron, as apparently was the case with Roof, was driven by hatred of Black people and a fear that Black people, immigrants (of color) and Jews are on a mission to replace white people. A believer in the “Great Replacement Theory,”(GRT) this young man wrote a manifesto explaining his politics that has been being fed to white America by media outlets and personalities, most noticeably on Fox News by Tucker Carlson.
When reading accounts of violent rampages carried out by white people on Black people in this country, there is always inclusion of “respectable” white citizens participating in the melees, including white law enforcement officers. And recently, reports are being emphasized that show the percentage of white supremacist-believing individuals serving in the military and on police forces around the country. (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/military/pentagon-report-warns-threat-white-supremacists-inside-military-n1258871) (https://newrepublic.com/article/162400/us-military-white-supremacy-problem) (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/09/white-supremacist-group-patriot-front-one-in-five-applicants-tied-to-us-military) (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/27/white-supremacists-militias-infiltrate-us-police-report)
“We,” Black people are not safe. Nor are Brown people or Asians or members of the LGBTQIA and trans communities. “We” cannot call the police and expect to be protected. That has never been the case for us in this country.
We live in a culture of violence. Even though media personalities will say – and do say – as reports of racially-motivated violence erupt – that “this is not who we are,” the truth of the matter is that this is exactly who we are. We live in a culture of violence, glorified and revered from the days of our founding. We are the modern-day “cowboys and Indians” generation.
That so many white people are afraid of being “replaced” is at issue. In a 2012 Atlantic article, author Ta-Nahisi Coates wrote that white fear of being paid back in kind for all they have done is real. (https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/09/fear-of-a-black-avenger/262826/) It could be that white police officers cannot and do not protect Black people because in their hearts, they see themselves as the guardians of the white supremacist system under which they enjoy so many privileges.
No Black life – or no saving or protecting of a Black life – is worth the risk of losing their upper hand.
It is telling that so many white people – including white Christian pastors – have remained silent, and not surprising that Right Wing media have been quiet as well. Those who say they are pro-life are proving that they are not pro-life at all, but, rather, pro-fetus and pro white privilege.
We are not safe. These angry white people – many of them mere boys – think they have a duty to protect white supremacy in general and white women in particular from Black men. Peyton Gendron is not sorry he killed innocent Black people. He believed it was his duty to do so.
And because he is not alone, we, the non-white who live in this country, including Muslims and Jews and soon, women who are still young enough to reproduce – are not safe.