Over the past week, the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill has prompted a slew of reactions claiming that “this is not America.” But, in actuality, this is America. What occurred in Washington DC now joins the harrowing list of historical events that demonstrate how white supremacy pilots domestic terrorism. During a CBS News Sunday Morning segment on Jan. 10, New York Times columnist Charles Blow provided a breakdown of such examples, explaining why white supremacy is the greatest threat to democracy and vice versa.
“There are many historical precedents for the way white supremacy responds when that perceived supremacy is threatened,” Blow said. He then cited the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, noting how white supremacists responded after the 15th Amendment gave Black men the right to vote. Many white supremacists banded together in Mississippi and formed a group called the Red Shirts, which used intimidation tactics and violence to prevent Black people from voting. “What they couldn’t achieve numerically at the ballot they would achieve through terror in the community,” Blow said of the mutineers. “Their efforts worked so well that Red Shirt groups soon sprang up in other Southern states.”
Eventually, the Red Shirts were able to “write white supremacy into the DNA” of Southern states, which led to the establishment of Jim Crow laws. Those edicts helped sustain an oppressive system that has shape-shifted — not dissipated — into many legislative efforts that impact America to this day.
“Donald Trump tried to intimidate voters before and during the election, then sought to erase legal ballots after they were cast,” Blow said. “He attacked large cities in swing states — those with a large percentage of Black people — as corrupt. And, with his legal challenges expired, his efforts culminated in a deadly insurrection in Washington, his loyalists exploding in violence in support of his attempted coup. Make no mistake: the red hats marauding through the halls of the United States Capitol were a throwback to the Red Shirts terrorizing the Southern countryside.”
Blow went on to reference a Jan. 7 article written by Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, which supports social justice and human welfare initiatives. Highlighting the clashing inclinations of democracy and white supremacy, Walker wrote: “I have long believed that inequality is the greatest threat to justice — and, the corollary, that white supremacy is the greatest threat to democracy. But what has become clear during recent weeks — and all the more apparent yesterday — is that the converse is also true: Democracy is the greatest threat to white supremacy.”
Walker then detailed the frustrated sentiments shared among people of color following the Capitol Hill riots and called for systemic reform. “Yes, the ideal of democracy is the greatest threat to the ideology of white supremacy; neither can long endure in the presence of the other,” he wrote. “That is why today — and every day — we must renew our commitment to protect our democratic values and institutions from all enemies, foreign and domestic, especially those falsely disguised as patriots.”
Watch Blow’s segment on CBS News Sunday Morning above, then read Walker’s entire response to the Capitol Hill siege.
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