Black People are Under Siege

By , CPE Staff

August was a bad month for Black people in the United States.

On Aug 28, the overwhelmingly White majority in the Tennessee state legislature voted to censure a Black lawmaker for the second time in five months. Two days prior, a White supremacist murdered three Black people at a store in Jacksonville, FL. That massacre came a few days after eight presidential candidates spent two hours trumpeting unambiguously racist positions in Milwaukee, which came less than a week after Arkansas' governor suggested that her state no longer offers college credit for AP African American Studies because the course teaches "hate." The first half of the month was bookended by the federal and state trials of six White former law enforcement officers who tortured two Black men. Early August saw reports begin to surface of threats against the Black judge overseeing Donald Trump's federal election interference case–threats similar to those against the District Attorney investigating his attempts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, first reported on Aug. 1. That elected official is, of course, also Black.

To say that "August was a bad month for Black people in the United States" is to suggest that there has been a month in U.S. history that was not bad for Black people; such a month has not yet happened. And yet, even in the context of a nation that has been actively clawing back the few civil rights protections that Black people have gained since Reconstruction, the past several weeks and months have seen a sharp escalation in anti-Black rhetoric, policies, and violence. In a word, Black people are under siege.

The powerful have always framed anti-Black behavior as a series of individual and unrelated actions. The White leadership of Tennessee's state legislature, they might say, is playing local politics. The murderous White supremacist was a lone wolf. Presidential candidates are just sharing their private thoughts. A governor is only one person and may have misspoken. And the people threatening two professional Black women serving the public? Also, lone wolves. Nothing to see here; it's lone wolves all the way down.

But Black people know better. We know that each of these actions is part and parcel, root and branch, of the same socio-political systems designed, defended, and maintained to serve the demands of White supremacy.

Seen through this lens, it becomes clear that politicians who talk about an imagined need to be "tough on crime" and politicians who act to remove the truth of Black history from our nation's schools serve each others' agendas. That politicians who act to silence Black leaders and the forces acting to silence Black judges and district attorneys serve each others' agendas. And that the lone wolves are actually foot soldiers, whose violence serves them all.

We must not let our grief over Jacksonville, our anger over educational policies, or our exhaustion in the face of centuries of dehumanization distract us from the simple fact that anti-Blackness, in all of its many expressions, serves a single political goal: Preserving the shrinking power base on which White supremacy depends.

Politicians' words cannot be isolated from the actions of the people who listen to them. Educational policies cannot be isolated from the political policies on which they depend. And there are no lone wolves.

However weak and unfinished our democracy may be, however great the threats against it, it remains a political system in which those invested in racial liberation can claim its power to push back on White supremacy and build a more just and equitable society. We’re doing that with CPE’s Elected Leaders Council and Unlocking Democracy programs. These learning communities are for elected officials and community members, respectively, who are dedicated to spearheading innovative efforts toward public safety redesign on the road to a that brighter day. 

Don't let the forces fighting to maintain White supremacy control the narrative. Understand the function of anti-Blackness. And when you walk into a voting booth this November, no matter where you live, remember the forces trying to silence you, and do what you can to make sure that they don't.