July 7, 2020
The COVID Revolution:
How BLM Seized the Initiative and Forced the Final Reckoning of White SupremacyThe Black Lives Matter movement, supercharged by the COVID-19 catastrophe and catalyzed by the death of George Floyd, has succeeded in reframing racism. In a transformative moment, the movement has seized the issue from the white supremacists, who have come crawling out of the woodwork over the last four years, and redefined it on their terms.
The White Supremacists, Nazis and Confederates will not get the race war they have envisioned at least as far back as 1969 when Charles Manson tried to make the Tate and La Bianca murders appear as if they had been committed by Black militants in hopes it would set off a black-white race war.
In the limited binary consciousness of the white supremacist they were unable to imagine that their vision of a white-versus-black race war would never fly, because once their violent racism came out into the full view of America and the world, most would find it repugnant and would reject it with disgust.
So their black-white race war transmuted into a battle between the racists and everyone else. The white supremacists can only be white, or at least look white enough, but they are by definition limited. The anti-racist side includes everyone else of all colors including most whites, who are not racists, though many of them, like me, may be realizing now that they have always been naïve about racism and never realized how bad it really was.
Now that this movement of white supremacists has been brought out into everyone’s view, people can see them as what they are, a freakish subculture. As they have become more visible and open in their racism and murderousness, most people are repelled and disgusted.
Some, unfortunately, are attracted to white supremacy, but most don't see their behavior as something to aspire to. Their days are numbered.
Against the backdrop of Trump’s public courting of the white supremacists, when the mass consciousness that had been drawn together by the COVID catastrophe shifted its focus to the murder of George Floyd, most people recoiled at the ugly world that was uncovered under the rock Trump pushed away revealing the racist elements still festering under the surface of American life.
With Trump as president, the white supremacists were having a heyday. They thought their time had come. They had a president that would stand with them and David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. It was their time to come out in the open, rise up and start pushing black and brown people out of the country, or into increasingly subjugated positions.
The private prison corporations were growing their profits handsomely along with a network of business interests that still profit from slave labor 150 years after slavery was outlawed.
It had become possible to march in the street with Nazi swastika flags and not even earn the rebuke of the President of the United States. How far we had come!
But just as they were experiencing what felt like their great triumph, their movement went a little too far and passed the tipping point.
All of this activity took place in the environment created by COVID-19. The Coronavirus changed the world in fundamental ways we are still trying to come to terms with. It created the fertile ground on which the George Floyd protests would burst into flame and grow almost instantly into a formidable international movement.
COVID focused the entire world on a single point, the ravages of COVID-19 as it tore through the world. And when the George Floyd atrocity caused the world to shift its focus, it brought a more potent energy to the issue than ever before. It exploded, broke through a threshold, and went into runaway, just as the virus did.
Once the ghastly torture and murder of George Floyd was made vivid to the world, the vast majority of Americans united in their abhorrence of everything about white supremacy. When the whole country became focused on that issue and on the white supremacists themselves, it became clear how out of step they are with the rest of American life. They appeared as a cranky minority of bizarre characters whose behavior was repellent to most Americans of all varieties.
The majority of people who embrace diversity includes people of all colors, ethnicities, religions and national origins, and they are united in the beliefs underlying the formation of this country: freedom, justice, equality before the law.
People have come to America for centuries from all over the world because of the principles articulated in America’s founding documents. And once here, Americans of all origins have joined in the struggle to make this country live up to the ideals in those documents.
Inherent in those principles is tolerance. There is absolutely no place for racism in the vision of American democracy that inspired the world in 1789.
Jefferson understood that contradiction even though he and others of the original framers were slaveholders themselves. That’s what prompted him to write, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
But the barbaric institution, begun in 1619 was already deeply lodged into the institutions of America by the time the republic was formed. Slavery pre-dated the formation of the republic by more than a century. It was grandfathered in by precedent.
But slavery and the American democratic republic were mutually exclusive. There was no way they could coexist. Slavery was an obscene contradiction of the doctrine of The Rights of Man.
There lay the unresolvable conflict at the heart of the nascent American republic, and there it sat and festered until it finally exploded into the American Civil War in 1861.
Barbarism in America
The practice of slavery in America was so shockingly barbaric that when reports of it reached Europe through a report from America to the British Anti Slavery Society, it outraged Europeans.
It prompted Arthur Schopenhauer in Germany in 1851 to write that “This book, consisting of dry but authentic and documented reports, arouses one’s human feelings to such a degree of indignation that one could preach a crusade to subjugate and punish the slave-owning states of North America. They are a blot on mankind.”
It did eventually come to something like that, though it was the South that instigated the war that eventually led to the abolishment of slavery.
But although Lincoln proclaimed the end and later Congress outlawed slavery, the Civil War did not succeed in blotting out the white supremacist culture that underlay slavery.
The process of reforming the slave states and routing out the slaveholder culture was cut short by the assassination of Lincoln. And that contradiction at the heart of the American democratic experiment has continued to fester ever since.
The murder of Lincoln by a gang of confederates short-circuited the process. Only Lincoln had the moral authority, the strength, the perfect combination of “velvet and steel,” as Carl Sandburg put it, to oversee the transition out of the slavery culture that festered within the American republic like a cancer and prevented the country from realizing the vision staked out by the founders.
The slave culture was so deeply entrenched in American life it looked as if perhaps it could never be removed. The rise of Trump, as a backlash to the presidency of Obama, proved how strong the white supremacist beliefs still are in America.
In the era of COVID, the issue has burst forth in a way never seen before; with such strength and potency that it becomes realistic to consider the possibility that maybe that long-delayed reckoning will actually take place and America will finally get the “new birth of freedom” that Lincoln spoke of in his Gettysburg Address.
Excising a Tumor
It turns out the old jokes of “The South will rise again” were based on some reality. The slavery culture of the south, of the confederacy, with its barbaric, feudal philosophy of white subjugation of blacks, was kept alive by the KKK and the white racist elements of southern society.
But now all this poison has come to the surface, gushing from the pores of the America body politic. And the body is rejecting it. It’s like an exorcism.
And this time the anti-racism movement seems to have gained too much momentum to be pushed back into suppression. There is a real possibility that the majority of Americans, who actually do believe in the ideals of the founders, will join together and force change, a true confrontation with the devils of racism and a final reckoning with white supremacy.
There is just no place for racism within the vision of America as a free society. They just cannot coexist.
What we have to finally come to is a complete denunciation of the white supremacist culture, America’s version of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation. We have to dig down to the roots, like a rotten tooth, and pull the ugly, disgusting monstrosity out of American life.
No one can effectively outlaw racist feelings someone may harbor inside. But racist behavior cannot be tolerated.
That is how we can go forth from this moment of reckoning. And that may be in the end the greatest benefit that the COVID crisis has brought us.
Out, damned spot!
You dignify white supremacy by calling it an ideology. In the global cybernetically connected world of the 21st Century, it’s a sickness. A mental disorder.
There is no civilized way to deal with racism in a modern, multi-racial society that aspires to live up to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, except to outlaw it. Flat out. No racism.
You can harbor hatreds in your own heart if you insist, but racist behavior will not be allowed. Zero tolerance. That’s the way we find a path forward from the present complex of crises.