By Kalen Ingram
Photo courtesy of Kalen Ingram
Disclaimer: Unless a person has come to terms with America’s violent history of white supremacy and black suppression, this article might cause discomfort. White supremacy is the most significant obstacle that America must overcome in order to address the present inequality accumulated from years of racism and genocide. But, radical racial progress makes people uncomfortable.
Four hundred years of white supremacy coupled with the unwillingness to address its lasting impact has led to a series of horrific events. Hate crimes and domestic terrorist attacks are happening at the highest rates that they have been in decades.
Time and time again, we have witnessed atrocity after atrocity at new lows. So has America reached its tipping point or is this another example of racial trauma that goes unaddressed? The divisive nature of the Capitol attacks has put the country in a position to make an important decision. We can adhere to the status quo and become indifferent to the problematic effects of racism or decide to actively reject the fear and hatred that result from white supremacy.
The most blatant display of America’s willingness to accept white supremacy was seen at the United States Capitol on January 6th. The course of events that some are calling a protest and others deem a domestic terrorist attack was the culmination of white supremacy and the subsequent denial of racism in America. The contradictory nature of the events on January 6th contrasts with my own experience at a Black Lives Matter Protest.
I decided to attend a protest on June 7, 2020. This protest, held after the death of George Floyd, was the first that I ever attended. I had already seen the media coverage of protests in other states, so, sadly, I prepared for the worst. I honestly believed that this would be the day I got pepper-sprayed and forced to run from the police; nonetheless, my brother and I proceeded to the Civil Rights Museum because my safety was not as important as my freedom.
There were hundreds of people that I had never met, but in a matter of hours, we became united by the same cause brought by a shared recognition of a lack of justice. That day, that community -- my community -- maintained peace and civility in the face of extreme tension.
My own experience was shockingly different from the media coverage of the Capitol riots on January 6th. I learned that the Capitol had been breached around lunchtime. While contemplating the news that white rioters had stormed the Capitol, I already suspected that no forcible action would be taken against them. Before I was able to go home and watch the news, I knew that I would not be reading stories about these protestors being shot, tear gassed or arrested. Unfortunately, I knew that these people would not be treated the way that black protestors have been treated historically.
This has been, by far, the clearest example that I have seen of the disparate treatment of people of color by police. The reason white supremacy has survived so long is because the country is unwilling to address it. Either people don’t want to talk about it, or they do not believe it still exists. The taboo nature of white supremacy enables racism, xenophobia and domestic terrorism to thrive. Essentially, this makes me ponder the repercussion of white supremacy in America.
True, 2020 brought an unanticipated wave of renewed social justice activism. We saw the social fallout after the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. In the summer, Mosaic was able to host a discussion about the civil discord in America. The participation and quality of discussion and interest were representative of St. Mary’s students’ willingness to learn from others.
I commend St. Marys’ effort to address the reality of inequality, especially while living in the South. I do believe that many administrators and faculty have adopted an open and honest attitude when discussing inequality in America. However, my experience at St, Mary’s for the last 13 years has shown me that St. Mary’s distances itself from conversations about race rather than embracing them. We must realize that racism is not as isolated as we believe it to be; is not always as blatant as flying the Confederate flag or spray painting racial slurs. I’ve never been harassed, targeted or bullied for anything at St. Marys, especially not race. But, I have felt uncomfortable, and I have been disappointed in St. Marys’ silence on social and political tension that occurs in the world. Not only do I recognize the steps that St. Mary’s is taking towards confronting the legacy of white supremacy, but I appreciate them. However, I believe that one step that will make noticeable change at St. Mary’s is by actively talking about the legacy of white supremacy in America.
As the only Black reporter on the Tatler staff, seeing the Capitol attacked on January 6th cemented the need for this article. We have strayed away from the topic of race in America for too long because we fear the repercussions. Because St. Mary’s is a mostly white community, addressing the repercussions of inequality seems like a monumental task. Recognizing that we live in a system created for white people’s success will cause feelings of discomfort. But, like I said in the beginning, discomfort is necessary for change. To demolish the legacy of white supremacy in America, we must first be willing to confront it.
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