On Wednesday January 6, 2021, the world watched four years of state sanctioned white supremacy culminate into the ransacking of the Capitol building by radical white extremists. In the aftermath of this event, I hope no one will ever turn a blind eye to the danger of white extremism ever again. What I also want to see is for leaders of every organization to make a firm commitment to protect people, especially those who are most vulnerable, from white terrorism. Without those protections, without a sense of safety, the collective healing process cannot take place.
As a result of Wednesday’s attack, all Americans now have a taste of the psychological trauma and terror that state-sanctioned white mob violence has inflicted on BIPOC communities for centuries. What makes this incident different is that this white mob unleashed its violence on white people in positions of power: white senators and congressmen, white police officers, and traditionally white government institutions. Therefore, the white people who ransacked the Capitol will be brought to justice.
In contrast, the white mobs that savagely lynched countless Black Americans and massacred Black communities like Tulsa, ruthlessly decimated and displaced Native Americans, and viciously slaughtered and exiled Asian Americans were never brought to justice. To the contrary, in many instances, the leaders and instigators of these mobs were voted into political office, celebrated, and revered. The trauma of these atrocities has been carried for generations into the present day, even when it has been hidden and suppressed, and will continue to haunt our collective conscious until the process of restorative justice is finally carried out.
In the meantime, BIPOC have been forced to resign ourselves to an American power structure that refuses to acknowledge its responsibility for having designed and institutionalized the structural barriers and economic inequality that trap so many BIPOC families into generational poverty. Instead, we are brainwashed by narratives of meritocracy, heroic pioneers, hardy entrepreneurs pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, alongside the glorification of America through glossy origin stories that intentionally hide its history of genocidal conquest, brutal oppression, and exploitation.
We are told if we assimilate into dominant white culture, forget the past, and turn the other cheek at all instances of being made to feel less human, we get to have a shot at the American Dream. I did that, and what I learned is that this American Dream remains an American nightmare.
The trauma of my ancestors, the trauma of previous generations of Asian Americans in this country, the trauma of any marginalized group targeted by xenophobic violence, the trauma of BIPOC terrorized for daring to demand the same rights, quality-of-life and opportunities as their white counterparts, is stirred up by every incident of state-sanctioned white supremacy and white terrorism, because there remains the danger that what happened in the past can happen again to me or people that I love, no matter how we play by the rules, no matter how talented we are, no matter how many extraordinary achievements we make to demonstrate that we deserve to be valued and respected as human beings.
Now that the danger of white extremism is in plain sight for all to see, I call on leaders everywhere to finally bring an end to this nightmare. Please do not let this foreboding sense of fear and danger be something our children must inherit.
Statements such as “this is not America” or “this is not who we are” are statements of denial and blindness. Instead, please acknowledge the truth that this is an ugly and real part of America and that the people who attacked the Capitol building are Americans radicalized by a distorted revisionist view of American history made possible by how white supremacy has been embedded into the nation’s education system.
This is the message that I want to hear from leaders: “We acknowledge that there have been and continue to be too many Americans who are violent white supremacists and terrorists and that our government has given these groups power and free reign at various points in our nation’s history. We promise to change this, and most of all, we promise to protect the most vulnerable among us so that no group will have to deal with the psychological toll of being exposed to this form of terror any longer.”