Freedom Rider: Who’s a white supremacist?

Americans have an openly racist president, racist foreign policy, racist law enforcement and racist corporate media.

During the 2016 presidential campaign this columnist wrote, “Who’s the Fascist?” The commentary was an attempt to decipher truth from posturing when discussing the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. American domestic and foreign policies were moving closer and closer to a definition of fascism before Trump ran for office. The United States threatens the world with nuclear annihilation, kills thousands with sanctions, and covers the world with military bases. At home the mass incarceration state created the largest prison system in the world. The surveillance state steadily diminishes civil liberties and human rights. Fascism is nothing new in this nation.

The loaded word was part of conversations throughout the country when two mass shootings occurred in a 24-hour period. The first in El Paso, Texas, resulted in twenty-two deaths. Nineteen of the victims had Spanish surnames. The second in Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people, six of whom were black.

A confused nation can’t come up with rational answers even though most Americans are sincere in their desire to end the carnage. A dangerous combination of racism, political cowardice and violence accepted by some of the well-intended is a recipe for inaction.

Congressman Stephen Cohen demonstrated the difficulty in coming to terms with American violence. In a twitter post which he later deleted, Cohen opined, “You want to shoot an assault weapon? Go to Afghanistan or Iraq. Enlist!” Presidential candidate mayor Pete Buttigieg enlisted with Cohen’s appalling buffoonery. “I did not carry an assault weapon around a foreign country so I could come home and see them used to massacre my countryman.”

Cohen and Buttigieg prove that much of the hand-wringing about violence is phony. The same people who may shake their fist at the National Rifle Association, or call Trump the dreaded F- word will shrug their shoulders or openly support killing if it is carried out by someone wearing a U.S. military uniform. Those who steadfastly oppose American imperialism and all of its violence are few and far between.

Most people are like Cohen and Buttigieg. They are cheerleaders for death and destruction if it is carried out by their government. They don’t bother to question, much less oppose U.S. imperialism, the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. Civilians are killed without warning in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, just like the unsuspecting shoppers in El Paso. They die from lack of medicine in Iran and Venezuela due to U.S. sanctions.

At the same time, racism is at the heart of domestic violence. A settler colonial state depended upon gun carrying white people to uphold the social order. The militias referred to in the second amendment were slave patrols needed to enforce the peculiar institution. Those militias continue in the modern-day police force and in the minds of millions of people.

Speaking of the police, all the talk of hate crime is a reminder that they commit more of it than anyone else does. Every day one black person and two others of different races will be killed by the police. Yet the term hate crime is rarely applied to the people who kill at will and with complete impunity.

The police have little to fear because most white Americans trust them and support their effort to keep black people under physical control. Even people who responded with outrage or attended a vigil for the victims don’t question the dictates of U.S. imperialism and police brutality. Both phenomena are white supremacist to the core.

Perhaps we need a moratorium on the use of the term white supremacist until it is applied accurately to all who deserve the epithet. Trump is once again the lowest of low hanging fruit in this regard. Meanwhile, a supposedly respectable journalist like CNN’s Jake Tapper gets away with showing every sign of bigotry expressed by Trump.

Tapper gave professional racist Richard Spencer a platform on his program and treated him like an expert spokesperson. Tapper showed his true colors again when he made a bizarre effort to compare the Palestinian cause with that of American killers. He and others in corporate media are white supremacists too, no less so than Trump.

In any case, the mass hate crime didn’t begin in November 2016. Black church goers were murdered by a young white man in Charleston, South Carolina, before Trump was elected. The names Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook also became infamous before Trump took office.

The El Paso police took the killer into custody without firing a shot, or putting him in a chokehold. Nor did the killer turn his gun on them. There seems to have been a mutual understanding that the police and white people are on the same side, even when whites are mass killers. Fortunately, the Dayton, Ohio, police were less reverential and killed the gunman.

Americans have an openly racist president, racist foreign policy, racist law enforcement and racist corporate media. The heirs of the slave patrols promise not to give up their guns and politicians either agree with them or cower in fear of the well organized lobby.

White supremacy is foundational to the United States. Rooting it out requires more self-awareness than this country is currently able to muster. In the meantime, no one should be shocked when the next mass shooting makes the news. White supremacy is not the province of crazy killers or orange faced presidents. It is a normalized belief system for millions of people.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at  Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

One Response to Freedom Rider: Who’s a white supremacist?

  1. The Freedom Riders in Monroe were brutally attacked by white supremacists with the approval of local police. On August 27, James Forman – SNCC’s Executive Secretary – was struck unconscious with the butt of a rifle and taken to jail with numerous other demonstrators. Police and civilian white supremacists roamed the town shooting at black people, who returned the gunfire. Robert F. Williams fortified the black neighborhood against attack and in the process briefly detained a white couple who had gotten lost there. The police accused Williams of kidnapping and called in the state militia and FBI to arrest him, in spite of the couple being quickly released. Certain he would be lynched, Williams fled and eventually found refuge in Cuba. Movement lawyers, eager to disengage from the situation, successfully urged the Freedom Riders not to practice the normal “jail-no bail” strategy in Monroe. Local officials, also apparently eager to de-escalate, found demonstrators guilty but immediately suspended their sentences. One Freedom Rider however, John Lowry, went on trial for the kidnapping case, along with several associates of Robert F. Williams, including Mae Mallory. Monroe legal defense committees were popular around the country, but ultimately Lowry and Mallory served prison sentences. In 1965, their convictions were vacated due to the exclusion of black citizens from the jury selection.