The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
Apocalyptic Whiteness, The Scope of Right-Wing Violence, and Trump’s Stochastic Terrorism
Fascism isn’t on the way. It’s already here.
[TW: This essay contains discussion of racist and anti-Semitic violences, including assault, arson, and murder]
“They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism… They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was a white terrorist attack that killed four Black girls in September of 1963. In his eulogy for two of the girls, Dr. King called the congregation and all who would listen to examine the very system of white supremacy, not just the terrorists that it produces. In examining the system, and its emissaries, we reject the scapegoating “lone wolf” claims because we recognize that the entire system is a ravenous beast with a multitude of arms.
Three separate instances of white supremacist terrorist violence made headlines last week: a man declared “All Jews must die” before opening fire and killing 11 people in a Jewish Synagogue, a man killed two random Black shoppers at a Kroger––“Whites don’t shoot whites,” he allegedly told a witness––after he first tried to enter a Black church and found the doors locked, and a rabid Trump supporter mailed at least 14 pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and vocal Trump critics, but his entire kill list included over 100 potential targets––political figures, entertainers, and journalists. These are not unrelated incidents because they are all acts carried out in service of the beast that is white supremacy, and in the U.S., Trump is its most emblematic ambassador.
Trump has run a campaign and maintained a platform built entirely on the strength of what I termed as apocalyptic whiteness in an essay on the racial implications of “The Girl With All The Gifts”.
“I call this panic apocalyptic whiteness––a compulsory obsession with the white genocide mythos that is rooted in racism, xenophobia, and nationalism, often with violent retaliation against the idea of ‘diversity’.”
Apocalyptic whiteness actively seeks to hinder, not only the prosperity, but survival of non-white people for fear of their own extinction; from ethnic cleansing and forced sterilization, to enslavement and concentration camps, to immigration bans and deportation. Borders are a tool of apocalyptic whiteness. As are prisons and immigrant detention centers. As are gerrymandered school districts. As are the suburbs. As is gentrification.”
As are voter suppression tactics. As are acts of white terrorism. As is the rhetoric that provokes this terrorism. White American conservatives and those who theorize about them may call it economic anxiety, or patriotism, but it is undoubtedly a fear of losing power and status, and their reaction to that visceral fear is apocalyptic whiteness, an effort to stall or completely derail what they see as the end of the world and the end of whiteness as they know it.
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Trump is a terrorist, too. A stochastic terrorist, someone who incites violence against a person or group by using their platform to demonize them, galvanizing hatred and emboldening their followers to carry out targeted attacks. He actively calls for, encourages, and condones violence against those who oppose him and the white ascendant ideals he upholds, stoking the flames of the fire that has already been raging for centuries. We are seeing it now. He’s publicly declared himself a nationalist, he’s warned us that there will be violent retaliation if Republicans lose in the midterms, he continues to attack George Soros and Jewish communities mere days after the Synagogue shooting and even blamed the victims for not being armed in their place of worship. With the large procession of asylum seekers marching towards the U.S., which many refer to as the “Migrant Caravan”, we see his instigation exceedingly clearly. These people are escaping violence and conflict that the U.S. created in Central America, but Trump has told his followers that their impending arrival is an “assault on our country,” and because of his words, a militia of armed Trump-supporters has formed with intent to “secure” the border. If right-wing white Americans open fire on unarmed refugees at the border, it will ultimately have been mass murder orchestrated and sanctioned by Trump.
Far-right Americans make up just 6% of the U.S. population, a recent study says, but it doesn’t talk about how two-thirds of domestic terrorism is tied to right-wing extremism or how right-wing terrorism has been steadily increasing in this century, but Trump slashed funding designated for groups fighting against right-wing terrorism not long after he took office. Nor does it contextualize the fact that 6% of the U.S. population is roughly 19 million people, or the fact that the Far Right, the neo-Nazis, the “Alt-Right”, the KKK, aren’t the only ones keeping white supremacy alive. “Passive” racists, staunch Republicans, and even moderates, do just as much to keep policies alive that ensure institutional, political, and social power of whiteness and orchestrate the social and material death of those they view as inferior.
I set out to capture the true scope of white supremacist terrorism in this country, but the reality is that there is no way that I can do so in a single essay. I had grand plans to work through a list of white terrorist attacks––the Oklahoma City bombing carried out by Timothy McVeigh and its connections to government standoffs with white nationalists at Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidians cult compound in Waco, and even how he inspired Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to plan the attack at their Columbine High School a few years later, the firebombing of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street in which hundreds of Black people were murdered by white men for the audacity of the community to prosper economically, the mass lynching in Arkansas one hundred years ago that stole over two hundred Black lives, the MOVE bombing by law enforcement against a Black activist community, the history of burning Black churches––but the list just got longer and longer. Because it never stops. It’s what they do.
And Trump and his followers continue to deal a one-two punch of gaslighting us and enabling even more violence against us. They are not oblivious to it. They just don’t care that it keeps happening to us, because they believe it’s what should happen to us. That is the point of white supremacy. They want to dehumanize, demoralize, and destroy us. And the ugly truth is that voting them out won’t kill their ideology. No amount of logic. No amount of mediation. No amount of appealing to their humanity or empathy will dissuade them, because they’re entire understanding of this world and their place within it positions whiteness as inherently superior, and they cannot let whiteness die. They don’t care how many lives they take, or uproot, or ruin in their effort to preserve white institutional, political, and social power.
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I’m sorry that this hasn’t come to a more hopeful end. I’m sorry this isn’t more inspirational or optimistic, but I find it increasingly difficult to be anything other than nihilistic these days. If you still have hope, I envy you. But I’m tired of being gaslighted, tired of people pretending that Trump doesn’t understand the full ramifications of the things he says, tired of headlines treading lightly and walking on eggshells about this instead of calling this shit what it is.
I close my essay on “The Girl With All The Gifts” with this harbinger:
“This beautiful zombie film unexpectedly delivers an omen for whiteness and the white supremacists who worship it. They may hold tight to their privilege, institutional power, and mythical supremacy until their hands are bloody and raw. But one day, whiteness will be usurped from its ill-gotten throne.”
I see this more apparently now than I did when I wrote these words, and I hope this spells white supremacy’s political doom. Vote if you must, if you are able, but be prepared to fight in other ways too. Fascism isn’t on the way. It’s already here. White supremacists are prepared to kill, and keep killing, to keep their world from ending, and we have to be ready to fight to make sure it does.
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