Updated: Feb 23
By Kwaku Aurelien
Given what transpired in Washington D.C. today, with the United States Capitol Building having been stormed by malcontent Trump supporters with little resistance, it has now more than ever before become paramount to begin recontextualizing "White privilege" to "White power." James Baldwin once said, "Whiteness is a metaphor for power." This is a statement that rings true throughout everyday life, but perhaps even more so today. No matter how uncomfortable it may seem to some with fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, and even to some who don't possess those characteristics, the reality is that White Americans live by different rules than their dark-skinned counterparts. This is an undeniable fact, illuminated not only by the lack of tanks, tear gas, batons, and gunfire in suppressing these "protesters," but by the Pentagon being late to dispatch the National Guard to the U.S. Capitol despite having deployed the Guard to the Lincoln Memorial against a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest over the summer. Imagine for a second, if you will, a Black, Indigenous, or POC coalition or organization attempting to pull off something like this. They would be met with violent reprisals from the police, illustrating why calls for the abolition of the police are not as extreme or as radical as many would think on the surface. They are merely a reaction to what BIPOC are regularly confronted with in dealing with the police en masse. What America witnessed today is state-sanctioned violence, evidenced by the state's tepid response. Right-wing and White supremacist elements in this country are emboldened precisely because they know they have the state on their side. They continuously are able to out-organize and out-prepare the left due to that reason. It is a testament to how their worldview is predicated on power that they are able to act as though their lives and their way of life have been turned upside down by the election of a Democrat who is noted as saying that nothing will fundamentally change under his direction. The term "white privilege" only serves to attenuate systemic violence into personal interactions, hence why it has come time to abandon it. It is said that history is written by the victors. As White people conquered this land centuries ago, they are in the position to do whatever they will on it. Black "Americans," being colonial subjects, are not afforded that luxury, a fact that the White right is aware of. The American White right is the most self-aware group or faction in this country. It is about time that racialized peoples and the left grapple with that fact and catch up.
The difference in how White and nonwhite people are treated by the state is important, no doubt. It is a point that is understood by those who are objective and constantly drilled into the heads of those who aren't. What isn't understood by most Americans is the fact that this is blowback – America's anti-democratic violence abroad is now being turned inward. What happened in Washington D.C. is staggering to many Americans, but it pales in comparison to the US-backed coup in Bolivia, sanctions on Venezuela's food program, and the choking of Iranian citizens by the thirty-five U.S. military bases and 65,000 soldiers surrounding their borders. Moreover, today's events call into question the sheer amount of American tax money that goes into national security and programs of mass surveillance, given that somehow, radical right-wing insurgents are able to slip by completely undetected by these elements. It also begs the question – how do the left and Black, Brown, and Indigenous organizations now respond? President-elect Joe Biden will in all likelihood say that violence needs to cease on both sides in order for the nation to "heal." Biden is always quick to say, "We choose unity over division!" He leaves out an important detail when he says this, however, which is that the opposition is bereft of conscience altogether. Where the right organizes itself within its communities, the left must organize itself within its communities.
In conclusion, it is necessary to discuss the platitudes that have been thrown Black people's way by Democratic politicians and liberals – that it is Black people who are saving America from itself. Not only does saying so ignore the fact that Black people were kidnapped from Africa and brought to America centuries ago, but it also keeps Black people today invested in a status quo that continues to cause death and destruction to its Black population every day. It misdirects young, well-meaning Black men and women who would otherwise be militant and uncompromising towards the injustices which face them on a daily basis, convincing them that they can "save" America where their energy would be better spent trying to save themselves and their communities.
Davis, Aaron. Twitter Post. 2020
Derysh, Igor. "Joe Biden to rich donors: 'Nothing would fundamentally change' if he's elected." Salon, 2019
Dogantekin, Vakkas. "Iran surrounded by dozens of US bases as tension grows." Anadolu Agency, 2020
Koerner, Lucas. "US imposes New Sanctions Targeting Venezuela's Food Program." Venezuela Analysis, 2019
Villareal, Vanessa. Twitter Post. 2020
About the Author:
Kwaku Aurelien is a junior at the University of Connecticut majoring in English with the intention of going into law school and subsequently becoming a practicing environmental lawyer fighting on behalf of oppressed and marginalized peoples in the United States and throughout the world. To this end, he is often reading and watching the news to heighten his awareness. He seeks the delicate balance between human rights activism and law. It is a hard path, but he has the utmost confidence he can pull it off. Be sure to follow Kwaku on his social media pages:
Twitter - @The_Earthquake3
Instagram - @quake_aurelien