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Daryl Grigsby: Need I be fearful of most white people?

Daryl Grigsby | Other Voices

 

I am troubled by this possibility. As an African American who has lived all over this nation, I have seen and experienced much that raises this question. At the same time, my life has been enriched by generous, affirming, justice-seeking white Americans.

Yet, the opening question often plagues me. By “most,” I don’t mean the overwhelming majority. I do mean some number more than half. Anything more than half is “most.”

Former President Donald Trump lost the election but won the white vote. Depending on the source, between 55-58% of white men and women voted for him. Among white evangelicals, his support was over 75%. I, and many white Americans, opposed Trump’s blatant racism, misogyny and hateful rhetoric.



Yet, apparently, his positions were acceptable to most white Americans. His policies, speeches, tweets and advisors espoused a frightening white nationalism and drew violent groups out of the shadows. I would not say everyone who voted for Trump is a racist. I would say, however, everyone who voted for him cast their ballot for racism. Abortion, taxes, or outsider status may be the reason, but the result is a vote for white supremacy.

I am also troubled that the leadership of the Republican Party. Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and others, do not condemn the violent impulses of white nationalists. Election workers are threatened, hate-filled rhetoric is rampant, and the leadership winks and nods. I mention the Republican Party because race is, and always has been, THE most important factor in our two-party system. The Republican Party began in opposition to slavery. The Democratic Party stood for the horrors of slavery. That existed for decades, until the Democratic Party came to support European immigrant workers, urban labor, and eventually civil rights for African Americans. Beginning with Franklin Roosevelt and solidified with John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic Party was associated with labor and civil rights. Suddenly, white people, in particular the South (the former, Democratic, “Solid South”), flocked to the Republican Party. While the Democratic Party also reflects the nation’s racism, Trump has unleashed a long-smoldering and violent element. This element will flourish unless courageous whites with integrity speak out.



The murder of Ahmaud Arbery was a stark reminder of violence and silence. A jogging Black man frightens a white man so he calls his father and friend to go hunt him down. They corner him like an animal, murder him, and go home. Remarkably, they are not charged until months later, after videos and protests force law enforcement to act. Absent protests, the killers would be home barbecuing ribs and watching football. Violence, and acceptance.

George Zimmerman, later acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin, was arrested only after mass protests. Zimmerman, an armed grown man, was accused of killing a Black teenager for the crime of walking in “his” neighborhood with a dangerous bag of skittles. Violence, and acceptance.

I am convinced violent whites are a small minority, otherwise Jan. 6 would have been a mob of millions. What most concerns me is not the violent minority, but the silent majority. If the majority do not stand up for what’s right, our future is bleak. Bumper stickers like “Let’’s Go Brandon” or “I’m with Kyle,” armed protests at government offices, and “replacement” rhetoric should be unacceptable to all people of good will.

Republican candidates who stand against Trump lose their seats, voting in Black communities is a hurdle instead of a right, Anti-CRT movements flourish. The real question is, do we want a just and multi-racial society, or one of white privilege and dominance?

And what of Black Lives Matter? Professor Treva B. Lindsey says, “to even have to proclaim ‘Black Lives Matter’ and know that people will dispute it, or counter with ‘all lives matter,’ is a result of entrenched and learned anti-blackness. In what world would saying ‘Black lives matter’ prompt a rejoinder? A fundamentally anti-Black one.” I am hopeful we can create a society different than described by Professor Lindsey.

No amount of skulduggery, lies, treason or corruption deters millions of white Americans from supporting Trump. What explains that devotion? Anger? About what? Fear? Of who? As white militias grow and the internet rumbles with threats, I fear the majority is silent. I believe but a small fraction of white America is prone to racist violence. That small group, however, is dangerous if the majority does not stand up.

Believe me when I say, I don’t enjoy thinking this, and frankly, I would be happy to be proven wrong.

Daryl Grigsby lives in Nevada City

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