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The Nation - July 19, 2021

With inevitable regularity, racial injustice and violence lead to moments of national conflict when even white Americans can no longer ignore the issue. And just as inevitably, instead of addressing this country’s pervasive racism and anti-Blackness, white Americans locate the problem somewhere within Black people themselves.

We’re in yet another of those moments, as last summer’s promised “racial reckoning” turns out to be a white lie. Black demands for full citizenship and equality are being treated as entitlement, calls for white racial accountability redefined as white persecution, and anti-racism falsely construed as anti-whiteness. To reestablish unchallenged white dominance, a movement of white resistance, or anti-anti-racism, is working tirelessly to blot out what it sees as a problematic presence—purging Black folks from democracy by stripping voting rights, erasing Black struggle from history by banning the teaching of slavery and its legacy, and prohibiting protest that threatens the white supremacist status quo.

We can be shocked, but certainly not surprised. This nation has a long history of counterbalancing any move toward Black liberation with the insistence that Black existence is better wholly removed or more tightly controlled. In an 1814 missive addressing the prospect of African American emancipation, Thomas Jefferson advocated for Black expatriation to another country, contending that without the yoke of slavery around their necks, African Americans were “pests in society.” Abraham Lincoln, even as he drafted the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, told a delegation of Black leaders invited to the White House that “your race suffer very greatly…by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence,” and placed the blame for “white men cutting one another’s throats” on Black folks requesting equality, claiming “but for your race among us there could not be war.” Lincoln suggested the solution was for Black people to “sacrifice something of your present comfort” by picking up stakes and relocating abroad, an idea the president would support until days before his assassination. ...
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