January 8th, 2021
It cannot be said enough: what we witnessed was White Supremacism in all of its ugly manifestations
“Everything that can be said has been said, but not everyone has said it.” This has been attributed to Winston Churchill, Abba Eban, and, for all I know, a longer list.
I wrote the first version of this post as I was sitting transfixed before my television on Wednesday. As others began to post what I was thinking and writing, I thought to hold back wondering if there is a need to reiterate those thoughts
Surely, there is nothing more I can add to the thoughts about this nadir of national leadership represented by a sick and destructive POTUS and his shameful enablers these past four years. History, and hopefully the voters and the legal system, will hold them fully accountable. Besides, long time readers are well aware of my unequivocal opinions on that.
And there is little more to say about the judgement of the seditious terrorists who commandeered the US Capitol for several hours. If there are any in the world who still don’t get it, my words are not going to convince them.
But what I finally did feel was important to comment on was the all too evident racism in the security breakdown and, as I will repeat later on, it must be said by all of us.
As one who has now entered the “elder” stage of my professional life, I can attest to having attended countless rallies, protests, marches, demonstrations, and more – going back to the mid-sixties. Over the years, I have seen various levels of security, attitudes by the police, and preparedness. So, the limited preparedness of that on Wednesday was glaring since it defied logic or historic precedence. On occasion, the security is too prepared – and become themselves guilty of disrupting peaceful expressions of free speech [we are all too familiar with recent examples in the BLM marches], but in fairness, more typically they are just a visible symbol of power. Never have I seen what we all witnessed on Wednesday – a shocking absence of security for the Congress or even a presence along the announced route from the White House to the Congress.
None of this was secret or a surprise. The claims to the contrary are disingenuous as so many in the press have already articulated and demonstrated. White supremacist terrorists got a pass – and were allowed to walk out at their own pace and without immediate arrest. Pretty clear to any viewer.
Why then do I feel the mandate to add my own voice now when so many have already done so? Because it seems that too many of those who have publicly called out the unconscionable difference between the response to BLM or immigrant rights marches and this one are themselves POC. And that must not be, for that makes their observations seem self serving and tokenistic.
As an “old white guy”, my voice must be no more quiet than those of POC. My outrage must be no more muted than those whose legitimate outrage has been reinforced by painful real-life experiences. My own commitment to holding those responsible for tolerating xenophobes, racists, nativists, neo-Nazis, white supremacists must be no more subdued than those who have been victimized directly both by police and by these terrorist thugs.
Now, l don’t say all of this simply as an “ally.” The concept of “ally” is problematic because it seems to suggest that what happens is only to “them.” I do this because it affects us as well. A society that tolerates racism, that averts its eyes before restrictions of authentic civil liberties, that abets public policies that foment lies and discord, that perpetuates unequal treatment before the law, the police, housing, and employment, is one that diminishes all of us.
So, as one who has been in the philanthropy world for a long time, I implore our sector and my colleagues to not be silent, not to fear public advocacy, not to shirk our responsibilities to foster and fund a more just social fabric.
We too will be judged by how we respond to moments of challenge to the social weal. I add my voice to others in our field who have spoken and acted. I hope those of you who have not yet done so will join me in these commitments.