Angry Political Autistics: On the link between white supremacy, privilege, and systemic oppression

US Capitol building, with high contrast white and black style

The recent attack on the U.S. Capitol shook many Americans to their very cores. It was anything but a “peaceful protest,” or even a simple riot. It was an act of terror and selfishness which sought to intimidate innocent people and swallow the democratic system through chaotic insurgency.

Hostages were taken, democracy as an ideal was thrown out, and many eyes were opened to a reality in which the police, along with federal armed forces like the National Guard, were proven to be exactly what some of us have always known. They are nothing more than violent deterrents utilized against protesting People of Color (PoC) when they try to access their rights.

As an Autistic PoC, I couldn’t help but think about how differently civil rights protests are treated when initiated by PoC who were sick of being killed, abused, unheard, and dismissed– while speaking out against white supremacy, privilege, and the systemic wrongs that are perpetuated in connection with these hateful mediums.

Think about it.

Historical social justice movements have been met with intense police aggression

Before Black Lives Matter organized and protested, there were many other historic social movements that were met by intense aggression from law enforcement, with excessive force used to neutralize people seeking justice– even young children– by any means necessary.

A great example of this is the Standing Rock Protest of the Dakota Access pipeline, during which law enforcement used excessive force and turned the treaty-held sacred land into a battleground. Tear gas and high-pressure hoses were used against members of the Tribe and their peaceful allies. While non-lethal, this happened in freezing conditions with the risk of hypothermia and exacerbating of other medical conditions a high possibility.

The exhibition of heavy military hardware, including armored vehicles, was a gesture of how willing the government was to displace rightful inhabitants of their own land. They used a type of “less than lethal” grenade which blew apart on protestor Sophia Wilansky’s arm, deployed attack dogs, strip searched tribal leaders, and threw them, naked, into cages.

These are actions that were not taken against violent Trump supporters who sought to attack our nation’s capital and democracy itself.

Apathetic response by law enforcement reinforces white supremacist ideals

When it came to the attempted coup by Donald Trump’s supporters, the reaction of law enforcement and the National Guard was apathetic. Not only was the planned security lax during a crucial time in United States history (counting of electoral college votes), but then minimal force and virtually no intimidation were used by law enforcement against the predominantly white supporters– a great deal of whom were verifiably emboldened by white supremacy.

White supremacy targeted the Senate during a change of power with the potential to make life better for marginalized groups, as an historically diverse administration prepares to take over.

That is no coincidence.

The maintenance of hateful ideology, while not the core belief of many Republicans, WAS the core belief of those who attacked the Capitol. The atrocious things said by our outgoing president about various minority groups are evidence of that.

Compared to the aggressive reactions from law enforcement agencies during other protests, the use of one flashbang while police politely escort terrorists down the Capitol steps is jarring. While details are still being uncovered about the multiple institutional failures that allowed this failed coup to occur, the security response can still best be characterized as tepid.

It is crucial as a nation to note the connections between white supremacy and excessive force

As a Person of Color, my Brown skin makes me a target. As an autistic human being, that target grows ever larger. And as a journalist, it’s a triple whammy. For all of these reasons, however, I feel it is crucial that we as a nation note the connections between white supremacy and the moderate, systemic oppression that can be seen through such excessive force. Law enforcement is currently attacking peaceful protests with full force but giving violent assailants to our democracy a free pass.

To quote President-elect Joe Biden:

No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protestors yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol.

We all know that’s true — and it’s unacceptable.

Joe Biden via Twitter, January 7, 2021

To add to that I’d like to say that rather than taking selfies, the officers responding to Black Lives Matter would have been taking lives– the lives of People of Color with a legitimate organization legitimately protesting. In how differently the domestic terrorists who besieged our capital are treated, and in President Trump’s willingness to overlook the incident, we can see the same spiteful, hateful rhetoric which fired up the behavior of Nazi Germany. It should be blatantly visible that if systemic oppression through racial prejudice is not vehemently confronted, then this nation will fall ever deeper into Darkness.

Lastly I wish to issue a challenge to my fellow Americans and allies worldwide. We MUST notice not only white privilege in society but also white denial; it is a massive privilege to stay in blissful denial of current events. Let it be shattered by current events, and become allies that can lift marginalized voices in a country built on the backs and necks of immigrants and slaves!

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3 Responses

  1. I don’t live in the US, but I was born in Germany, and grew up as a privileged white child in post-colonial Nigeria and Pakistan. We must learn from history.

    1. The context that allowed fascism to rise in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s:
    2. The implicit assumptions that have powered the W.E.I.R.D. (Western Educated Industrialised Rich Democratic) social game for many decades, which I refer to as the “W.E.I.R.D. axioms” – and the related denial:
    3. The demographics of incarcerated people across the “civilised” world, not limited to the US, but including many other countries like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc., which are a direct reflection of the cultural bias induced by the W.E.I.R.D. axioms.
    4. The level of institutionalised bullying that is tolerated in many organisations, which allows the W.E.I.R.D. social game to perpetuate itself, and which is not addressed by simplistic diversity & inclusion recipes (without independent external oversight) or by occasional token gestures of solidarity:

  2. I’m still wondering what the hell they were thinking when they stormed the capitol. Just why? These same people label BLM a domestic terror group but that’s a huge hypocrisy because look what happened here. MLK said only light can drive out darkness and only love can drive out hate. I don’t understand why so many people always fight fire with fire.

  3. I am barely old enough to remember the old Jim Crow laws of Atlanta, Georgia. My father was a medical officer in the U.S. military. One day after work, he took us to the first McDonald’s to open in Atlanta. He was still wearing his Class A uniform. Although we didn’t have any problem with buying burgers, fries, and shakes, when we went to sit down, the manager came out from behind the counter to point at a sign. I was too young to read but I understand that the sign said that seating was for whites only. My family is Asian and having shared this story with others throughout the past years, the most common reply I’ve gotten from white people was that this story couldn’t possibly be true because we weren’t black. For some reason, there’s a misconception that racism in the deep south was a black and white issue. If you do some superficial digging and look at the segregation signs from that period, the signs identified which water fountains, public restrooms, and even stores were for “whites only” and which were for “colored.”

    When we were refused seating at McDonald’s, my mother who had been gently raised in New York, broke into tears. My father told me that we would be having a picnic in the car. I thought my father was a genius because we had always eaten at a table and had never eaten in the car before. I was too young to understand the concept of racism and as I sat in the back seat of our station wagon, I could not understand why my mother was crying. When I tried to offer her some of my fries by way of comforting her, my father told me to just relax and to eat my dinner.

    By the time I was ready for kindergarten, segregation had been repealed and I was one of the first minorities to be enrolled in what had previously been an all white school. There were only two “colored” students in the entire school that I know of. I was one. There was also one black student who was in a different kindergarten class. I remember protestors standing outside the school with signs but being too young to read, I didn’t know what the signs said or why people seemed so upset.

    I remember having both my parents take me to school on my first day in kindergarten. When an adult with a sign looked at me and called me a “cute monkey,” I didn’t understand that I had been insulted. Having had my mother read Curious George to me, I thought I knew all about monkeys and happily skipped between my parents who were each holding one of my hands.

    Time passed.

    When I was in high school, the first and only football game I ever went to was a home game in which my school was playing against an inner city school from Atlanta. The home side of the field was filled with white people. The visitor’s section was filled with black people. On one of the bleachers on the home side of the field, some white teens waved the Stars and Bars and shouted, “THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN!” The white school administrators, teachers, and coaches said nothing. The white parents said nothing. The other side of the field was completely silent.

    I was so embarrassed that I left and never attended another game.

    I wish I could say that things have gotten better but they haven’t. Last year when I was sixty, I went to a doctor’s office as a new patient. After filling out my paperwork and taking a seat, the office manager called me back to the counter. She told me that my name was wrong. I offered to show her my ID. She waved my driver’s license away and continued to insist that my name was wrong.

    The office manager was an older white woman. She told me that I couldn’t possibly be named “David” because “David” was a white American name and I was clearly not white. In point of fact, “David” originated as a Jewish name.

    The woman told me that my parents must have been terribly ignorant to have given me a “wrong” name. In point of fact my father was a medical doctor and my mother was an English literature professor.

    I was so shocked and upset that I had a meltdown and lost the ability to speak. I left without saying another word to the office manager.

    At home I wrote a letter to the doctor to complain about what his office manager had said. When I dropped it off the next day, I know the office manager read my letter because she called to tell me that she wasn’t a racist. She accused ME of being a racist and said that she had NOTHING to apologize for.

    Since I am reasonably certain that this woman “filed” my letter in the trash, I googled the doctor, found his home address, and wrote a letter to complain about what had happened. I also left a scathing review on Yelps.

    The doctor wrote back. Nearly fourteen months have passed and I have yet to open the letter and to read it. I just can’t bring myself to read this letter. Needless to say, I found a new doctor and have never been back to this doctor’s office.

    The doctor has since sent me a 2nd letter which also remains unopened.

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