The rise in recent anti-racism protests in the United States of America brought international attention to the country. Exacerbating; national and international debates, discussions, and conversations on the issue as a result of the calculated, callous, and inhumane death of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement officers who swore to protect and serve. This public, modern-day lynching under the guise of public service and protection has undoubtedly become a hidden norm within many institutions and societies. However, the public manifestation of aggression and the use of excessive force by police officers against Black and minority groups validate perceptions about law enforcement. And some law enforcement officers may have adopted this modern-day lynching approach consciously or unconsciously through the process of groupthink perpetuating a secret code to annihilate Black people or rather; “put them in their right place.” After the public execution of Mr. Flyod, the unprecedented global backlash through days of protesting was not; expected.
During this time protests across U.S states and in countries outside of the United States were not isolated to the death of Mr. Floyd, African-Americans, “minority Black groups” nor where they solely anti-racism, the protests intersected with issues affecting Black, Indigenous, and people of Color on such things as health disparities, education, housing, social protection policies, immigration, economic equity, discrimination against migrants and refugees, LGBTQI+ populations, authoritarianism, reparations, and the use of the media, state and private institutions to enable discrimination and violence.
What was unique about the protests was the diversity of ethnic groups and social causes. Various groups seized the opportunity to add their voices, vociferously expressing their concerns in the most prolific: creative yet public ways. Yet one common denominator stood out and, that is the dehumanization of human beings. While Mr. Floyd’s death ignited protests across the United States, his death reopened unhealed wounds resurrecting grief and pain felt by many families across America and beyond who lost loved ones to police brutality and politically motivated killings. His death exacerbated conversations and virtual town hall meetings on systemic, structural, symbolic, and political discrimination, violence, and oppression. However, the COVID-19 climate added another layer to the conversation sparking troubling concerns due to the overrepresentation of COVID-19 infections, hospitalization, and high mortality rates among Black and ethnic minority populations.
Social media became a buzz of activity with online protestors calling out corporate companies. Encouraging the support of black-owned businesses while videos portraying various racists acts triggered latent emotions sparking virtual outrage debates and conversations related to white supremacy, privilege, and fragility. Including how many Black people validate assumptions made against them. Yet the visceral actions by many protesters undermined their objectivity during a passionate event. And the traditional and new media outlets had a field day sensationalizing the issue for ratings and profit while playing various divisive tunes in alignment with their hidden fundamental beliefs. Yet, many persons are dancing to those tunes, as objective and unbiased journalism ‘seem’ to have taken a back seat.
As discussions on white supremacy continue to permeate private and public spaces: many are failing to discuss the unhealthy social, economic, and political constructs of a ‘supremacist’ ideology that enables racism; discrimination; and inequality. This ideology perpetuates historical cycles of trauma, oppression, and violence enabling atrocities, decades of pain, and the re-traumatization of people from the lingering residues of colonialists practices. This ideology cannot be fought: by burning buildings, looting, self-subjugation, or other physical manifestations of anger and rage.
The physical expressions of anger and rage that were manifested: during the protests ought to be acknowledged, discussed using healing-centered engagement and transformative change approaches, reconciliation, and commitment to co-create better communities, societies, and systems. Unhealthy and latent expressions of anger and rage can be implosive and or explosive ultimately heightened when acts of violence and discrimination are perpetrated: against vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups.
When some members of the oppressed groups resort to damaging property during peaceful anti-racism and liberation protests, the emotional responses of a few ought not to be used to generalize the whole base on selected information. Most oppressed and hurting people believe that a physical display of their pain may send a message to their oppressors that their unheard voices cannot. The manifestation of internal fears, trauma, hurt, and silence outwardly creates spaces for unheard voices, invisible bodies are seen and lived experiences shared. In such moments, there is a shout of “are you hearing and seeing us now? We have been hidden, in plain sight for way too long” “We are not, collateral damage as a result of your quest for power and ownership.” “We are human beings and have a right to be treated justly, be heard, and live dignified lives in socially just, inclusive, equitable, and violent free societies.” However, in such moments individuals and groups who hold supremacist ideologies will find ways to vilify protestors justifying their position by pointing to individual acts of traumatic and emotional centered disruptions. As a reason why their supremacist ideologies ought to remain intact to maintain the status quo swaying the majority through the media. Willfully, overlooking deeper core issues, causes, and drivers of the behaviors.
A supremacist ideology can be adopted by any individual or group regardless of race or ethnicity. It is a social, economic, political construction rooted in such things as the economic and political power; and control over and access to human, natural and other resources; and the acquisition of territories. Supremacist’s ideologies seek to intimidate, coerce, punish, exact vengeance, instill fear, oppress, and deny rights and access. Encourage classism, social power through notions of ‘we-us and power-together.’ solidifying collective manifestations of the ideology through implicit and explicit means such as access, and control over economic, political, social, academic, religious, and health institutions. Working to inconspicuously frame, private and public systems, and processes to benefit their groups to align with their dominant supremacist ideologies at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.
This idealogy, directly and indirectly, hurts everyone and, there are economic and social costs attached. The ethnic or racial group that is ‘assumed’ to be superior; having economic, political, and social power and influence will manipulate that assumption and seize power and rule base on the dominant assumption subjugating others out of fear of reprisals and unearthing the truth. And over time, assumptions become truths as resources are acquired. Remaining at the top is the goal of individuals with a supremacist ideology, and nothing will stop them. Developing ingenious ways to maintain power and keep power is one of their tactics: even engaging in tokenism, guilt aid, and developing that culture across all systems and institutions. “those poor, black boys and girls that are at-risk we must save them from themselves.” By any means necessary and the end justifies the means” are the mantras.
The dissemination of information and with more voices in public spaces, critical reflection, and consciousness-rasing is challenging some individuals who hold supremacist ideologies to question themselves, their belief system, and how they treat others. Yet there are others, even in the face of mounting evidence, that will hold onto supremacist ideologies destabilizing families, communities, and nations. The manifestation of toxic relevance and solidarity to upholding supremacist ideologies will hinder the creation of spaces and experiences for humanity to connect to see others as human beings. People do not oppress what they do not fear. Fear can enable the worst forms of atrocities, even from moral and “good” people, and social conditioning can turn “good” “moral” people into enemies of humanity.
How then can we begin the process of change?
- Change begins with authentically saying, “I am Sorry”: While engaging in deep critical self-reflection to critically analyze assumptions that drive attitudes and behaviors;
- Change begins with changing the way we think about people we label as the “other.”; While removing the word tolerance and replacing it with acceptance;
- Change begins with challenging those who educated us through a skewed lens; While being honest with ourselves, our experiences, and our beliefs and acknowledging where those beliefs have caused harm and hurt even death;
- Change begins with understanding, accepting responsibility, and not seeking to blame to excuse; While taking responsibility, showing up, and holding ourselves, families, communities, and leaders to account;
- Change begins with peaceful dialogues and compassionate listening to drive conversations for change; While honoring the humanity in each other and speaking against the behaviors that seek to divide;
- Change begins with the evolution of ourselves through knowledge and the ability to see beauty, grace, and greatness in each other understanding that we are more similar and connected than we believe; While committing to social change and transformation.
Investing monies and other resources into unserved and underserved communities and in the lives of people harmed as a result of supremacist ideologies are part of the process of change. Including intentional decisions about preventing and ultimately eradicating the ideologies that dehumanize, enable discrimination and inequity, interpersonal violence, and addressing historical and generational trauma, violence, and oppression in the process. Change is not linear, nor is it static it is dynamic ever-evolving, it is about creating safe spaces for liberation and healing where everyone can speak their truth as each person will have a different reality to share. Supremacy occurs at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels and is used to condition groups of people to create divisions within society. The time has come to deconstruct these ideologies beginning with a conscious and intentional commitment to co-create a better world together rather than apart.