The battle against Black Lives Matter is being massively escalated by the day. We’ve gone from Kyle RIttenhouse straight-up gunning people down, to pimped-out pickup trucks with pepper spray super soakers (and Trump flags) driving through crowds of peaceful protesters. (General Motors must be so proud of that product placement.)
I’m old enough to have witnessed some of the carnage of the 50s and 60s, when civil rights finally came to the Old South — and the South fought back with all its might. And this is same song, new verse, except the deadly force has been privatized. If anyone thought we’d made progress since 1965, or somehow become a post-racial society, explain this.
I can only imagine how any of my Black contemporaries feels about this, seeing those old fuzzy video images come back to life in the starkest possible way.
Actually, I don’t have to imagine. Here’s writer Damon Young on the subject of Black resilience.
Being born Black don’t make us any more resilient than anyone else. We ain’t stronger. We ain’t tougher. We’ve just been given more shit to carry. Our kinship with resilience is just us convincing ourselves we can hold that weight, and them justifying how heavy they pack our bags.
This is why Doc Rivers was moved to tears. This is why our best athletes are questioning whether they can go on playing the games they love. They are hurting in a deep and real way that us white folks can’t even imagine. They aren’t volunteering to share their pain, nor should be feel any obligation to do so, because it involves opening the wounds once again. That’s not something you do unless have no choice, because the pain is so great.
The President of the United States is acting like George Wallace, the O.G. segregationist who was willing to foment racial violence for the sake of his political benefit. Donald Trump shows that there are still plenty of white folks racist enough that all they need is a signal. Trump is blowing all the dog whistles as hard as he can, and will keep on doing it until Election Day.
Every day, every dog whistle, every act of racism, will cut to the bone. We can only hope it ends on Election Day with an unambiguous rejection of Trumpism. It’ll be bad enough when, as seems very likely, a majority of white voters choose Trump despite all of it.
“We keep loving this country, and this country doesn’t love us back,” said Rivers. This country keeps on showing it.
I realize this is a blog about Vermont politics, but nothing happening within these borders seems to matter as much as our whole country descending into targeted chaos for the political benefit of the Republican Party.
And it is relevant to Vermont. We’re just, for the most part, blissfully ignorant of it.
Take the deeply divided city of Bennington, where a bunch of white folks showed up to try to prevent the painting of a Black Lives Matter mural. Four people were arrested, including Most Wanted Racist Asshole Number One, Max Misch. Bennington’s police department has triggered plenty of Black folks with its obvious record of profiling in traffic stops. Now, the mural produces a backlash unlike anything we’ve seen elsewhere in Vermont. And yet, the white leaders of Bennington mainly confine themselves to vigorous hand-wringing.
Not to claim that the problem can be isolated to Bennington or Vergennes or any other community with an established record of racism in policing. Vermonters in general are complicit as long as they comfort themselves by claiming that it’s not so bad here, or spouting easy words in support of Black Lives Matter.
In truth, most Black people continue to see Vermont as an unfriendly place to live. That’s not a problem with their vision; that’s a problem with who we are and how we act. Vermont’s political leaders have not been true allies; they have been fair-weather friends.
And the weather’s gettin’ stormy.
The racism of the Sixties didn’t die out magically because of the Civil Rights Act. It went underground for a while, waiting for conditions to improve. Now, anyone with an eye to see and a brain to think must realize that racism is a potent force in America, something we can’t just hope away or banish to a distant, unenlightened past.
The demons of our worst nature are being summoned by a man who claims kinship with Abraham Lincoln. Those demons are powerful and angry. The response must be proportional.
I have no patience for “both-sidesism” right now. There’s been some property destruction and looting in the protests. But it’s a damn dirty lie to claim that Antifa is a powerful organization capable of threatening the American way of life. Organized violence is largely a creature of the other side.
And if each and every protester was absolutely calm, peaceful and reasonable, that wouldn’t stop the Trumpists from claiming otherwise They’d simply fabricate violent images — as they have already done, in fact. Black Lives Matter will be demonized by Trump and his minions no matter what they do.
After all, Trump’s forebears did the same to Martin Luther King despite his lifelong adherence to nonviolence. They painted him as a dangerous demagogue until the moment that the Kyle Rittenhouse of the moment, James Earl Ray, gunned him down in cold blood.
My heart has been broken by dark swings in our politics on multiple occasions. It’s hard for me to see it arising once again, seemingly as strong as ever. I know I’m going to hate the next two months. And I’m a privileged white guy who lives a world away from the front lines. Sure, there’s a “Black Lives Matter” on the pavement of State Street, but that seems more and more like an empty gesture.