Now Is the Time for White People to Pick a Side

The Capitol insurrection awakened some of America’s greater parts. But can the country’s majority stay woke?

Photo: Jana Shnipelson/Unsplash

The storming and seizing of the Capitol building will forever remain etched in our collective memory. It’s challenging to forget an assault on democracy or see a federal institution penetrated. Politicians were hunted for harming. We saw property destroyed and defaced — with feces and urine left behind.

The damage superseded government property. A week after the insurrection, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a video sharing her experience inside the Capitol as she hid from domestic terrorists while fearing her life. Four Democratic members of Congress caught Covid-19, likely due to being bunkered for hours with unmasked Republicans. The siege produced several deaths, including a woman who was crushed, another shot in the neck, and suicides by a Capitol police officer and a rioter who faced criminal charges.

While the insurrection was a treasonous travesty of historic proportions, it may prove to be a real watershed moment. Whether in Tulsa in 1921 or Charlottesville in 2017, America has a habit of deflecting from the truth. Yet what spoke thunderously over the past week wasn’t a visually impaired United States of America. Instead, the red, white, and blue exhibited a hawk’s optics and swiftness. Not only did the nation look into the mirror and face its poor health, but it also took immediate action to extricate its cancer(s).

The question now is, will the rest of America join this fresh path toward reckoning? In this very moment, Americans — specifically, White ones — can begin to redefine themselves and discontinue their horrible contributions to world history.

First, the president was pinned as the author of this terrible chapter in U.S. history. Then the feds sought to punish all who were foolish enough to follow the Robert E. Lee reincarnate. Many were tracked down, arrested, and charged (the least intelligent assisted in their capture by posting selfies inside the Capitol). Some of the cowards who contributed to the storm while hiding within packs thought they were safe from consequence — until they, in an attempt to return to wherever they called home, found themselves kicked off flights for refusing to wear masks. Clear-eyed America then capped the week off by serving Donald Trump his second impeachment.

The question now is whether the rest of America will join this fresh path toward reckoning. In this very moment, Americans — specifically, White ones — can begin to redefine themselves and discontinue their horrible contributions to world history. Many White people have ached to separate themselves from the lineage of racist oppressors and tattoos of Lucifer. The country has alchemized domestic terrorism into a golden opportunity. Americans can now commit religiously to better versions of themselves and their children.

Last year appeared to be that breakthrough year when all the good and great of the Caucasians rose to the top. Last summer, White liberals exhibited historic allyship in response to the spike in Black deaths by police. Across the country, confederate iconography was toppled literally and litigiously. From the NBA headquarters in New York to the painted streets of Washington, D.C., to Silicon Valley, the revolution was supported, sponsored, and televised. That was until we learned that White allyship requires Viagra — many couldn’t keep up the intensity. Plenty couldn’t keep up the facade. Passive aggression and the checkered actions of those who claimed to be non-racist exposed their hunger for equality as snackish. They failed to realize that if Black and Brown lives aren’t as important as their native soil, then the land can never be considered great.

A most saddening fact of the insurrection at Capitol Hill was that it wasn’t executed by a swath of America’s bottom-feeders. The savages who pillaged the home of the United States Congress weren’t a bunch of drug-addicted multi-felon degenerates. (At least, not all of them.) They were made up primarily of public servicepeople, elected officials, pro athletes, and health care workers, to name a few. The fact that our national health relies on our population’s backwash is accreditation for our diseases. It offers logic as to why our judicial system is so infested and the police departments so corroded that the people demand a complete demolition.

Generational change is by no means an easy process. It would be juvenile to expect racists to reverse hate overnight. Bias and bigotry are psychological problems — illnesses that beg for nothing less than years of psychiatric therapy. Even White people who operate indiscriminately aren’t necessarily anti-racist. If one is not in direct and active resistance to inequality, then they are among the cells that comprise the cancer. The goal isn’t to live separate from the problem; it’s to be a resident of the solution.

For the progressives who are ready to divorce from the reputation of their forefathers, I recommend aspiration as the route to generational redemption. Look toward the cream of your country and embrace them as daily leaders. It goes beyond expected commanders such as Kamala Harris, Oprah, or Mrs. Obama. Tap into those who are not beholden to any government system, yet put White skin in the game of equality.

An excellent example is Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and Serena Williams’ husband. Last June, Ohanian, who amassed a net worth exceeding $70 million by making White people in Silicon Valley richer, responded a week after George Floyd’s murder by vacating his Reddit board seat, insisting a person of color fill it. No one in the world expected Serena’s hubby to make a move for BLM. Regardless, he stepped forward, took a little of what he possessed, and passed it to someone with less. That, ladies and gentlemen, is activism on behalf of Black people.

Yes, it’s a tall task. The short of it is that the United States is salvageable. It will always be a sum of its states — its residents, the heart of it all. America’s core will be as healthy as the character of its people. True and unwavering solidarity can only be validated from the most precious areas of their lives, potentially risking social or financial status to assure that we all have the right to claim siblings of other races. Your identity will be dictated by whether you stand up without request like Ohanian, teach children like Jane Elliott, or give Killer Mike a platform like Bill Maher.

It’s no longer acceptable for White people to simply appear non-racist. The spotlight and mic are on. Time to pick a side — commit to an identity and choose your country. Now is when America decides our tomorrow.

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.

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