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Welcome! You are invited to join a webinar: Saving the House We Built: Critical Conversations on...
"Saving the House We Built: African Americans, Democracy, and the Attack on the U.S. Capitol" This event will feature presentations by UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members, Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom,...http://bit.ly/3p46AFZ
We will be live tweeting the conversation with @Erika_K_Wilson, @tressiemcphd, @william_sturkey, Sharon P. Holland, with moderator @KiaLCaldwell.
With Ronald Williams also moderating, of course!
Ronald Williams recaps the failed coup on January 6th. This day was "just like any other day for Black Americans." The attack on the capitol was an attack on Black America.
"It was an attack on the house that we Black Americans built literally." - Ronald Williams
Kia Caldwell introduces us to Professor @Erika_K_Wilson. My typing skills honestly can't keep up with all her distinguishments.
Kia Caldwell introduced us to all the panelists - all of their accomplishments are incredibly numerous. We will get to hear the participants speak now, before the Q&A with the audience.
First we hear from @Erika_K_Wilson
Erika has a unique perspective as a lawyer and law professor. She thought of the Dred Scott decision, that all Black people, whether free or enslaved, were not, and could never be citizens of the US.
May of us were "riding on a high" seeing that Georgia had flipped, because of Black votes. Black people have given more to America than we could ever give back.
She presents us with a photo of the Black police officer at the capitol who risked his life in front of the mob of angry white folks to protecte members of Congress. For Erika this depicts a great dilemma - loving a country that doesn't love us back.
Erika shares another image with us - a collection of headlines from mainstream newspapers. "An attack on democracy;" "An attack on the rule of law."
The irony of calling this an attack on democracy, is that democracy has been being attacked by the ways that Black voters have been being deterred from voting. "We don't tend to think of the ways that the rule of law works to the disadvantage of Black people."
The way the headline was phrased ignores how the law when upheld has been used to oppress Black Americans. The 6th did not occur in a vaccuum.
Erika heard a lot of "This is not who we are" after the failed coup on the 6th. In fact, in the capitol building are busts of traiterous, secessionist Confederate persons. For Black citizens, this is always who we (the US) have always been.
Next we hear from @william_sturkey. "Saving the house we built" is an appropriate title historically. The capitol building itself was built by slaves who were rented out from their masters.
Black people have always been at the forefront of actually pressing the US to act like a democracy. Figuratively and literally "The house we built."
On first hearing about the violence and chaos in the capitol, Professor Sturkey thought, "Good. Let them see what this party is really like."
This goes back to Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, who supported segregation and dog-whistled "states' rights", respectively.
Again, "This is who we are,' comes up. "We all love democracy, until Black peple have a say in it."
The Civil War was the result of an election that was rejected. The Confederacy rejected Abraham Lincoln as president.
Hiram Revels, the first Black Senator elected in 1871. White supremacists harked back to the Dred Scott case, and argued he should not be senator because he had not been a citizen of teh US for long enough.
The US has a long history of violent white backlash when Black Americans gain a political foothold.
When Barack Obama was elected, we again saw people saying that he was ineligible to be president.
In this context it makes sense that white supremacists would reject the results of the 2020 election, in spite of the still rigged electoral college that was put in place to protect slave owners in the first place.
Thanks @william_sturkey ! A pleasure to hear you speak. Now we'll hear from @tressiemcphd .
The 6th was not remarkable. Black people, people of color, were not shocked about what happened at the capitol on the 6th.
The primary takeaway: the violence that was happening on the outside was also happening on the inside. Violence can also be bureaucratic.
The political problem for the Republican party is that they overshot. There was already a partially successful coup happening on the inside, before January 6th.
We don't often think of identity politics for white people. White American voters, however, invented identity politics, and white identity politics is becoming more salient.
A little over 40% of white voters now thinkof themselves through their white racial identity. When white people feel white, they also feel possessive of public life.
When white people are awakening to their racial identity, they don't necessarily think in an anti-racist context, but as a profound loss of social status.
The white identitarian is increasingly the likely white American voter. The white identitarian voter is at least as dangerous as their extremist kin. "White racial identity repertoires will graft historical iconography onto current media spectacles."
Symbols of white purity, the adoption of Nazy symbols, the adoption of Confederate symbols. A lot of tehse ideologies run through ideas about Greek and Nordic cultures as being teh original pure whiteness.
Internet and modern technology are not the root of the problem of the spread of white supremacist ideas, though they play a part. It is also an emotionally resonant experience.
We assume that if people know how oppressive whiteness is, they will choose something else. But actually, racism feels good.
White people will absolutely destroy the idea of democracy, before they will allow it to operate in practice.
Such an interesting perspective. We'll now hear from Sharon P. Holland!
Dr. Holland quotes James Baldwin “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
Sharon is sharing a beautiful piece of writing with us, weaving in US history and autobiography. Please, please view this recording if you can! @SouthUNC will share a link to it on our website when a recording is available.
A transcript will also be available.
The session is opened up to Q&A. Ronald WIlliams asks the panelists to consider the relevance of "myth" and the myth of "all men are created equal." What do we make of this at this moment?
Erika Wilson: Whiteness is a myth. It's the center of everything. It's a legal, artificial construct. The myth is sustained because it benefits white people. (Prof. Wilson was a lot more articulate.)
William Sturkey: At UNC, all the buildings are named after slave-owning white men, although slaves built the campus. This naming reinforces the feeling of ownership.
@tressiemcphd : America has only been exceptional at the myth making of whiteness. "exceptional" does not mean "good." It is noteworthy in its scale and grandeur.
An anonymous attendee: in a world in which BLM graces the homepage of amazon, and white people are able to deflect their complicity by claiming to be an anti-racist, how does the movement resist whiteness's insistence on forgiving itself?
Sharon P. Holland: We need to understand that anti-racist work is a practice. It doesn't come from having sign on your lawn, but growing the muscle to be able to respond. This idea that we can have our anti-racism slogan without our anti-racist work makes no sense.
SPH: the very system that produces whiteness, also produces its invisibility. You cant just say "BLack lives matter,"and keep moving. that's a practice and that takes time and effort and perhaps some redistribution of wealth.
Erika Wilson: we have to dig in hard and resist the commodification of the BLM movement. It has become a commodity slogan to absolve white people of culpability. We have to push for more substantive justice, and not be satisfied with rhetorical devices.
Tressie McMillan Cottom: The goal of anti-racist work was never to put up a sign or to feel good warm feelings, the goal is to stop being white. Not to be okay with white, or a better version of whiteness. Whiteness is built on a fiction that is based on oppression.
SPH: Maybe for Valentine's Day we should have a "Break Up With Whiteness" campaign. TMC says she'll write the Hallmark Card.
Kia Caldwell points out how mainstream media sells us whiteness 2.0. Can we bring this home and talk about what white supremacy means for UNC Chapel Hill? UNC-CH has had many moments of terror with white supremacy.
KC: in light of January 6th, how should we be thinking about institutions?
Erika Wilson: we have to think about the product that these universities are putting out. One of Trump's lawyers was a graduate of UNC's law school. The folks who do a lot of teh hardcore bidding of white supremacy - not just wearing signs, but enacting laws-
-arguing the validity of an election, are products of major institutions, wehther it's Harvard, Yale, or UNC. These places are training grounds for people who do that kind of work.
William Sturkey: We are relying on moral persuasion of University leaders. We don't have university leaders who are willing to leverage the institution to create real change; in that sense, we're barking up the wrong tree.
WS: we need to think creatively about how we organize to leverage the influence of teh institution, without having to go up the administrative leader.
ANonymous question for Erika Wilson: What is the obligation of law schools to call out grads from many years ago? Is staying silent complicity?
ERika Wilson: Setting the record straight in terms of what's right when it comes to the rule of law, that's what we're supposed to be doing. I think it's important to speak out and say something.
Another question: How do you explain or discuss the Republican Congress's efusal to accept the facts of January 6th, as they apply to the previous occupant?
Erika Wilson: there's no rational explanation for why republians are refusing to accept the conclusions of the election.
Also, @Erika_K_Wilson just let us know that, thanks to her, UNC has a civil rights law clinic again! Awesome.
Ronald Williams: What do police have to do with this? (I'm paraphrasing, bear with me!)
Sharon P. Holland: Earlier she shared a picture of police shaking hands with white supremacist protestors (was the photo from UNC campus in 2019?). The way the media is representing the police on the 6th as anamoanomalouslous, is misleading.
Tressie McMillan Cottom. There is no reformation of the police or the police state. There is no "Officer Friendly." It is fundamentally incompatible with any other kind of nation but a white nationalist one.
TMC: The only way our current strucutre of police works is in a nation where whiteness is property and Blackness is always theft.
TMC: The police are armed to the teeth, they're an occupying force in a Black city that does not have democratic representation, and can't manage to get across town to protect the capitol building with an armed white insurrection.
TMC: The police [on the 6th] were doing exactly what the police are supposed to do.
Kia Caldwell. The "few bad apples" applied to police is false. the institution cannot be reformed.
KC: How do gender and sexuality intersect with what happend on the 6th?
Erika Wilson: A lot of the capitol insurrectionists were white women. Their gender does not give them more empathy or fighting against toxic white masculinity. Whiteness is the dominant identity over gender.
William Sturkey. "Dividing the races" serves the wealthy. The people who put "In God we Trust" were corporations who were fighting the New Deal. White working class people who showed up for Donald Trump don't actually gain anything from DT beingn president.
Sharon P. Holland. Reminding us of the material aspect of anti-racism that is redistribution of wealth. There is a hunger out there for people to solve a problem through self-determination. ( As opposed to a program you have to go through. )
William Sturkey. Coming back to defunding the police, which "scares teh crap" out of a lot of people. Activists need to show the numbers. Police hace gotten $$$$$$$$$ for military grade equipment, like Chapel HIll police's tank.
WS. the economic aspect has potential to be very convincing for defunding the police.
Anon. question: How do the panelists feel about Kamala Harris?
William Sturkey. We need more representation of Black people in all walks of life. Is glad that she is in the White House, though he doesn't know how that will manifest in policy.
Erika Wilson: REpresentation is not liberation. We shouldn't allow teh Biden administration to weaponize VP Harris to quell demands by Black people. Let's not get caught in the trap of being happy that we have a Black woman VP.
EW: It's not enough that VP Harris is not Pence; that's just a start, not the finish.
Tressie McMillan Cottom. On the same page as Erika Wilson; we've had a long romance with the Obama admin. It is okay to be reticent with a wholehearted endorsement that someone hasn't earned yet. But also, hire Black people.
Ronald Williams. Brings us back to wealth redistribution, & the problematic nature of the capitalist economy. Policymakers aren't willing to take on the connection between anti-racism and anti-capitalism. You can't have an inclusive democracy if you don't have an inclusive market
Tressie McMillan Cottom. Asking if something is possible within capitalism removes radical potential. Capitalism is behind climate change which impacts TMC's community. (TMC is actually being very eloquent, this live tweeter is lagging.)
TMC: the endgame of capitalism should be full reparations, then we imagine the future post-capitalism. Trying to solve our social problems without dismantling capitalism is a fool's errand.
Sharon P. Holland. Black people have a vibrant legacy of attention to the fact that climate change is social justice work. The administration is already cordoning those two things off, as if they could be separate.
Kia Caldwell. How do we reach people outside the academy? How do we influence policy?
Erika Wilson. Academics should be more connected with organizers within the community. Many people are already doing the work that we're talking about. Public scholarship like Op Eds are important, but stepping out of the silo of teh academy might be more important.
question from the chat. There's been a "Cold Civil War" going on for the past 155 years. How do we end it?
Tressie McMillan Cottom: Who's we?!
Erika Wilson: Break up with whiteness. That's how this ends.
William Sturkey. The way we've been teaching the civil war in this country has changed dramatically in the past four years. Since Dylan Roof, since Charlottesville. The grassroots educational effort is there and it's happening.
Audience question: If the police are not a viable institution, what is the institutional counterweight to white supremacist groups who are armed to the teeth and ready to use guns against Democratic institutions?
Tressie McMillan Cottom. It's not really reasonable *at this time* to call the police to intervene in white supremacist violence. If the white nationalists are the police, how can we call the police on the police?
TMC. The question is, how do we make it so that you don't need to call some external authoritative agency for your basic needs and wellbeing?
TMC. The idea that more police would be better presumes that what happened on January 6h was just incompetence? If that's teh case, incompetence has a lot of firepower, and that doesn't seem good either.
Wow, just go watch this as a recording if you missed the live! So many good points.
Apparently I've been missing out on a lot going on in the chat. Such an amazing converstaion. It will be available on @AAAD_UNC's YouTube channel. There's no excuse to not go see it!
This is the end of the live Tweet. Apologies for any misspelled names or wrong titles, live Tweeting skills can, apparently, get rusty. For completely accurate direct quotes, look up these folks' work and check this link for the recording of the talk! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCIbJ5M1Vh1L4rdfGtBdj7A?app=desktop