As a white man watching the Michigan protests of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders, all I could think was: Black people don’t get to do this. Muslims don’t get to do this. Latinos don’t get to do this. People who look different in any way don’t get to do this.
They don’t get to swarm American capitol buildings in tactical gear with high-powered weapons, screaming in close proximity to police officers. They don’t get to dress up like Call of Duty cosplayers and attempt to physically intimidate politicians into bending to their wills. They don’t get to get to stop traffic in city streets decked out like they work at the Death Star and brazenly wield semi-automatic rifles. They don’t get to terrorize decent people and walk away.
Only white people get to do this. This violence is a singular privilege afforded to caucasian men in America.
People of color aren’t afforded this luxury. They can’t even get close to such ugliness. Heck, they barely get to breathe.
No, they’re shot as 12-year olds walking through the park with toy guns. They’re choked out selling cigarettes on street corners. They’re assassinated while unarmed in their cars during routine traffic stops. They’re gunned down in their homes by uninvited police officers. They’re driven into the pavement by overzealous security guards. They’re demonized as mothers declaring that their murdered children’s lives mattered. They’re publicly vilified by white presidents for silently kneeling on NFL sidelines.
Black people don’t get to to wear menacing masks or flash handguns on courthouse steps or accost strangers looking like dollar store stormtroopers, in an attempt to frighten people. They frighten people by simply existing in their blackness.
They frighten people by lingering in coffee shops. They frighten people by eating lunch in their cars. They frighten people by standing in front of their own homes.
In those places where they are simply and lawfully living, they are met with disapproving side-eye glances, greeted with clutched purses, and assailed by an army of terrified Karens, whose itchy text trigger fingers easily dial 911 when non-white young people congregate in a park or crowd their favorite Chick-Fil-A dining room.
This privilege has always existed, but it’s been decades since it’s been afforded this wide a birth, this long a leash, and such kid gloves from leaders. The threatening displays of white rage around the country lately, are happening with such frequency and ferocity, because participants know that they have in this president, a dedicated advocate, a willing partner, a powerful accomplice.
It’s no coincidence that in the middle of the fight to oppose stay-at-home protections by Blue governors choosing humanity over commerce, Trump tweeted out seeming non sequitur invocations to LIBERATE several cities and warned of second amendment encroachment. Though on their surface the subjects seemed unrelated to stopping the spread of the virus, these tweets were clear dog whistles for his snarling white base to suit up, strap on weapons, and provide the free muscle in his reckless push to reopen American in the throes of a pandemic, knowing they’d never be held accountable.
This is MAGA America in its dawning renaissance of outward racism, showing us what is at stake as we approach another election. We aren’t just choosing a president or party to steward us through the coming years, we’re making a statement on what we will and will not tolerate as a people.
What we witnessed in Michigan was an act of terrorism, by the very definition of the word. We have seen many such acts this week, and if November allows this malevolence another four years, they will seem tame. The self-appointed soldiers in the army of the lord will grow more brazen and become more violent in their holy war to make America whiter—so decent white people need to resist them in the streets, on social media, and at the polls.
I fully suspect people of color will oppose this presidency in large numbers, because they see the disparity.
What I hope and pray, is that more white people, especially those who claim to be Christian, will also stand to reject the supremacy and racism that yields such willful homegrown terrorism; that we will use the unearned currency of our privilege to declare this violence un-American and inhuman and unacceptable.
White terrorists can no longer have a friend in the White House — not if we really want to make America great.
Jеff Kоwаlsky and Senator Dаynа Pоlеhаnki
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com