White on White Violence

The amount of violence whites have inflicted on blacks is staggering. Police violence has been in the news lately, but there is the history of this violence stretches way back before this modern incarnation. Have you ever heard of a mob of angry blacks lynching a white person. How about attacking a white person who moved into a black neighborhood? Black folk attacking whites who were protesting? The very idea of these things is ludicrous. Until the 1960’s a race riot meant whites were attacking black folks rather than vice versa. Have you heard about these race massacres: Wilmington NC 1898, Atlanta 1906, Springfield, Illinois (which sparked the formation of the NAACP,) East St. Louis 1917,  26 cities (including Chicago) during the Red summer of 1919, Tulsa 1921 and Rosewood, Florida 1923. In each of these whites attacked blacks, killed black people, burned their homes and belongings. It was only from 1965 on that race riot meant blacks looting and burning. Even then they were attacking white storeowners in their community not marching out to the white suburbs attacking whites. I have often felt that the fear whites have about blacks is not about  some intrinsic violence in black people, but about a fear of blacks finally exploding in rage at the violence whites have perpetrated upon them and the subjugation blacks have endured. It is white guilt consciously or unconsciously leading to a projection of violent tendencies onto blacks. You can trace a direct line from the fear white slaveowners had of blacks rising up to end slavery and oppression, to the race massacres of the past, and the police violence of today.

Yet many bring up “black on black” violence to deflect charges of police brutality, as if that excuses it. Yes over 90% of violence against blacks has been perpetrated by other blacks. It is also true that over 80% of white violence is “white on white” violence. A better way to look at it would be to call it “proximity violence.” People commit violence most often against those closest to them. Most people committing violence don’t want to commute. Racial segregation, redlining, federal housing and loan policy show the lie that most residential segregation is because black folk want to live near other black folk and white folk most often want to live near other white folk. Whites have hidden behind a fear of declining property values or some other such rationalization. Racial segregation has been an explicit public policy.

That brings us to today. The few people commuting to commit violence are white folks like those in Charlottesville and Kyle Rittenhouse, both of whose victims were white. We have a president who has condoned this violence by calling them good people, celebrating them, and even telling the violent white supremacist group the Proud Boys to stand by. He has said that a loss of the election might trigger a civil war. The couple who threatened peaceful protestors as they were passing by, who brandished their weapons, were invited guests at the  2020 Republican convention. This presidential call for violence flies in the face of the FBI’s calling white supremacist groups the great domestic violence threat. Yet the president emboldens them. The news includes the FBI arrest of 13 people plotting to abduct the governor of Michigan and other Democrats to start a civil war. These incidents are examples of “white on white violence” that is done because of the furor which Trump has stirred up to mobilize his base. He has argued that there is an “antifa” organization trying to take away the freedom of Americans when law enforcement knows there is no such organization; that the Democrats are planning a socialist takeover of the country which figurehead Joe Biden will allow; and that federal “agents” (who are really a private army for him) are necessary to secure peace in protesting cities. These are lunatic charges that are being leant the power, credence and bully pulpit of the office of the president of the United States. Donald Trump may end up being the greatest perpetrator of white on white violence the country has known since the Civil War.

This goes beyond partisan politics to the very glue that holds our disparate ethnic groups and unequal economic system together. We used to believe that whatever the differences in political views were, the democratic system would allow a way to work them out without violence, That is no longer the case and the reason I see Trump as a threat to the very idea of democracy. There are certainly some Republicans and conservatives who agree, but they are not the rank and file. They are usually the Republican out-of-office elite. The rank and file are yet to be heard from and will be in the coming election. Let us pray that there are enough of these people who have awakened from Trump’s spell to see the naked truth and are repulsed by it.

 

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