White Rage

We know what caused the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Yes, the President encouraged the protesters he gathered to support his effort to upend the election results, to “take back America,” to “fight, fight, fight.” President Trump urged domestic terrorism, but he didn’t cause it. The real cause of the violent storming of the Capitol, threatening Vice President Pence and members of Congress, was white rage. Anyone who thinks about it knows that.

First, note that roughly one one one-hundreth of one per cent of Trump’s 74,000,000 voters were among those breaking into the Capitol, probably fewer (I’m guessing that some insurrectionists did not vote at all). The overwhelming number of citizens casting their ballots for Donald Trump supported him for reasons other than those of the white supremacy-driven mob. Most of Trump’s voters preferred him to President Biden because they thought he would be better for the economy, would support the military more strongly, is a political outsider (the Presidency was his first and only attempt at elective office), he speaks his mind and so on. Nearly all of Trump’s voters condemn the violence of January 6 though they may not blame it on Trump.

Why do I say white rage caused the riotous violence? American citizens come in various colors along a spectrum from very dark brown, called “Black,” to very light beige, called “White.” None of us chose the color of our skin, but the color we have has huge implications for how our lives go. Those toward the white end of the skin-color spectrum tend to benefit from being light or white. Benefits decrease gradually as one’s skin gets darker. Those benefitting least are nearly black. White rage arises in various degrees as well, for the most part depending on one’s relative “success” as each of us defines it.

Often, in our consumer society, money is taken to be the measure of success, though relative power, recognition, even personal fulfillment and other measures also come into play. Complicating various measures of success are efforts to level the playing field to make opportunities for success more equal for all, regardless of skin color, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity and other prompts of discrimination. Some individuals resent Affirmative Action and other efforts to foster equal opportunities, again by degrees along a continuum, getting angry with people of color, women and others, as well as with those devising and implementing equal opportunity mechanisms. Sometimes “reverse discrimination” is alleged.

Given that none of us are responsible for our skin color –it’s a genetic product of activities of our parents— where we fall on the benefit scale is arbitrary. The spectrum and resulting advantages and disadvantages are functions of society, not individuals. Racism is real even if there are no racists. Complicating all of this is that in a decade or two people of color will outnumber whites in the US. If there’s truth to what I’m claiming above, none of this bodes well for the racial divide. I think the police homicide of George Floyd, with its huge anti-racism demonstrations world-wide, set the context for the White supremacy backlash at the Capitol on January 6th.

What can be done to soften such collisions? I think most of white America realize that the color of their skin gives them advantages over people of color, especially over Blacks. If Whites could choose the color of their skin I believe it’s unlikely they would choose darker skin and least likely they would choose to be Blacks. This is due to an unexpressed understanding of the relative advantages of being Whites.

Acknowledging skin-color advantage –admitting it to our self– is a good first-step in easing tensions between Whites and people of color, even if that acknowledgement is unspoken. It will help Whites to be more understanding of racial tensions, and such understanding will turn down the heat stoking the racial divide. And it will reduce White rage. Having leaders who do not encourage White supremacy will help too.