Whitecentrism and More: This Year Is Looking Really 2020-ish
This week on democracy-ish, Toure asks: “Does it seem as if 2020 hasn't really ended? Like we got rid of Trump, but it's still 2020-ish.”
Two-plus weeks into the Biden administration, we’re hoping America can reclaim its place as a global leader. But it’s hard to feel hypocritical about that, considering the Senate’s reluctance to convict our former president for insurrection.
Post-Trump, the GOP is squabbling with itself. Most Republican House members voted against rescinding committee appointments for QAnon-crazy rep Marjorie Taylor Greene, while some tried to do the same to Liz Cheney (who committed the sin of voting to impeach).
Meanwhile in Norway, both Black Lives Matter and Stacey Abrams were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. What could the award mean for racial justice in America and abroad?
So far, Danielle says, 2021 seems like “2020, the sequel.”
If we were living in a soap opera, 2021 would be the evil-er twin who returns to wreak havoc on their sibling, she explains. After all, the year began with an insurrection.
And we still “have to deal with fucking asshole Karens who storm the Capitol building and then have the audacity to ask a judge for permission to take a trip to fucking Mexico they prepaid for –– and get to do it, because of whiteness,” says Danielle.
If you’ve been taking a media vacay after years of Trump-rage doomscrolling, yes: That happened.
Danielle is fantasizing about expatriating to Costa Rica.
Toure thinks America is too important to the rest of the world for citizens like Danielle to “abandon it and let the QAnon Karen crazies take over.”
“Is it?” Danielle replies.
“They’ve already had a transformative impact,” says Toure, who thinks either award would be a powerful signal to America, and the world.
Danielle doesn’t disagree, but the work of these activists doesn’t need a Nobel stamp of approval.
“Does a medal make up for the last 400 years? No, it doesn't.”
Episode Highlights –– Destroy Whitecentrism
It’s a recurring theme on democracy-ish: “This country would not be what it is without Black people in particular standing up and demanding America live up to its promise,” says Toure.
“Black America continually fought and rebelled and demanded we be the America it claims to be –– not just liberty and justice for straight white men, but for us, too.”
The struggle to include Black folks in the American dream “has been slow and painful,” he adds. “Of course, that tension between us and them is a large part of what Black culture flows from, what’s made America so valuable to its citizens and to the rest of the globe.”
Danielle is “on the fence” about whether we actually retain “superpower” status.
“The world has been without America for four years. Everyone seems to have managed without us,” she says.
Toure disagrees. He sees the U.S. as the “only real superpower in a world that would begin to “unravel without America as a force of cohesion.”
More like a “force of hypocrisy,” says Danielle. “We go around waving our flags and talking about democracy when in fact, we don't exercise the shit we preach.”
The ‘QAnon Karen’ caucus
Toure agrees that “there's mounds and mounds of hypocrisy in the notion of America as a global leader.”
But there’s still plenty of value to the rest of the world when America has a strong influence on issues like the global economy and climate change –– not necessarily to dictate terms, but “to set the pace,” he adds.
“I just feel that America has a lot of reckoning to do at home,” Danielle argues. “I feel so icky about the idea that America is somehow this force –– when we are literally overflowing with crackpots and crazies.”
She thinks that the 2020 election didn’t do much more than “hit pause on our descent into fascism.”
By the 2022 midterm, the “pendulum is going to swing back and we'll be right back to where the fuck we started,” Danielle adds. “The QAnon Karens will have taken over even more.”
Toure thinks that on a macro level, America can walk and chew gum at the same time.
“We can be a global force trying to push the world in the right direction, trying to prevent, say, Russia from taking over Europe, or to prevent Syria from murdering more of its citizens … while struggling with problems at home. America does not have to be perfect to be helpful.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene’s laser focus (and loss of power)
It’s hard to imagine how America can reclaim even helpful status when roughly half of its senators are already signaling they won’t convict Trump for insurrection.
Meanwhile, all but 11 Republican House members voted against stripping notorious QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee appointments. But the Dems prevailed: The Georgia representative will no longer serve on the education and budget committees.
Greene (“darling of the party,” Danielle adds) was just one of the women in Congressional crosshairs this week, though.
GOP leaders sought to punish Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming by rescinding her committee assignments. In her case, it was because she advocated for Trump’s (2021) impeachment.
“They're holding the same conversation about whether to remove the crackpot who believes that Judaism strikes down on us with lasers from space,” Danielle says. “We're in fucking batshit crazy land.”
AOC’s 1/6 trauma
The scope and horror of January 6 continues to unfold even as Congress prepares for Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. This week, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to IG Live (archived on IG and her YouTube channel) to expand on her experience of the day.
In a harrowing, nearly 90-minute video, AOC describes the terror of hiding in the bathroom of her office while she heard someone banging on the door, shouting: Where is she?
“The way she described it –– and given what we already know –– you’d think she was talking about one of the terrorists. But actually, it was a Capitol Police officer, who did not announce himself as a police officer.”
But even when her Congressional aide realized who was at the door and told her it was safe to emerge from hiding, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t sure whether he was there to help or harm them.
“This is what Black and Brown people are dealing with in America,” says Toure. “The institutions and people who are supposed to help us –– even for somebody like AOC, who is part of the government –– doesn’t know, when the police arrive, whether or not it's a trick or a treat.”
The GOP is ‘America’s abuser’
Toure sees AOC’s experience as indicative of “the funhouse-mirror nature of racism: We don't know what we're gonna get.”
Danielle was struck by the congresswoman’s courage to share she is a victim of sexual assault –– as well as her explanation of how 1/6 was particularly difficult for people who experienced trauma previously.
“The Republican Party is America's abuser,’ Danielle says.
As she watched AOC break down in tears, she was reminded of videos of Republicans who seemed to be casually waiting out the “occupation” of the Capitol.
“Those people did not seem like they were in the midst of the same insurrection,” Danielle adds. “They seemed a little too fucking calm, as if they knew what to expect.”
A Nobel cause
There are “always some crackpots” nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, says Toure. Thousands of Norwegian politicians and academics are eligible to put them forward. As if to prove that point, noted slumlord Jared Kushner was also nominated this week.
But Toure thinks the nomination of Black Lives Matter is particularly deserving and important.
BLM’s efforts to affect justice for Black and Brown people in America have opened up nationwide –– and global –– discussions about policing, reparations, education, and more.
“To honor them with a Nobel Peace Prize would be an extraordinary recognition of the work they’ve done to breathe life into the notion of an aggressive civil rights movement in America, which was dormant for most of our lives,” he says.
When Danielle heard the Nobel announcement, she was “incredibly proud of Opal [Tometi], Patrisse [Cullors] and Alicia [Garza] for their work,” she says. “I don't think people understand how difficult it is to advocate for your life and your livelihood on a day-to-day basis.”
Stacey Abrams’ blue grit
For her groundbreaking, years-long work as a voting-rights activist, Stacey Abrams was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this week.
“God, if there's any single individual we can point to as having made a massive, indelible difference in 2020, it's Stacey Abrams,” says Toure.
He’s inspired by the depth of her character, particularly in the face of a stinging loss in the 2018 gubernatorial race, which “was stolen from her,” he explains.
“Instead of pouting, sulking or going off to the private sector, she maintained such a faith in the importance of the electoral system, her own power and her people.”
That faith led Abrams to spend the next few years “registering and energizing so many Black people that when we come back around in 2020, Georgia's fucking blue,” he adds.
Danielle points out that Abrams didn't get resources from heavy-hitter funders like the DNC because “they only put money where they can visibly see they're gonna win. It's why they just conceded the South to Republicans for decades.”
Black women save America… again
Danielle wants to celebrate that these extraordinary women are being recognized on a global stage, but she’s tired of the fact that Black folks seem to always be the ones doing the hard work of fighting injustice.
“The only reason we didn't end up with a pedophile in the Senate was because of Black women in Arkansas,” she says. “Because they're the ones scrambling with their money, making sandwiches, knocking on doors and doing the fucking most. It just pisses me off.”
And the only reason why we know about the countless Black lives lost to police violence is because activists like Patrisse, Alicia and Opal brought it to our attention.
“We used to have to hang flags that said a man was lynched today,” Danielle says. “But now technology has been able to link us in a common rage.”
‘Legitimacy’ starts at home
Toure thinks a Nobel Peace Prize for BLM could “have a massive impact on America” because
“millions of white people need that legitimizer and may look at them in a different way. They may decide to give them money, or give a second listen to things they're talking about.”
Danielle thinks legitimacy is the wrong word here.
“The movement in and of itself is legitimized by the fact that there are legions of unarmed, innocent Black people who are dead,” she says.
“You know I don't give a fuck about changing white people's minds.”
And yet she knows white supremacy is not something we just deal with in the United States.
“It is a global cancer,” she says. “If you travel around the globe, you can talk to Black people in all types of places and their experience is the same: discrimination, neglect, abuse.”
She thinks an acknowledgement by the Nobel committee of the phrase itself Black Lives Matter “being attached to peace … would go so far to create peace and a reckoning in this very unjust world, where Black skin is seen as a threat.”
Raising ‘double consciousness’
Still, Danielle argues that “we need to move outside of the frame of what white people see as valuable.”
She sees being Black in America as a constant, “internalized struggle of understanding the white supremacist system we have to navigate, but not succumbing to it or having that lens when we look at ourselves.”
Toure agrees that looking at the world “through white-centric glasses” is self-defeating.
“I feel more powerful when I reject that,” he says. “I feel more mature, like I've ascended to a higher level of being when I have a Black-centric vision of things. It's a really important step toward becoming a fully self actualized Black person in America.”
It takes concerted effort, though.
“The [W.E.] Duboisian double-consciousness requires us to be aware,” Toure adds.
We can reject white conceptions of BLM and, at the same time, recognize that the Nobel nod “may lead to a greater appreciation, understanding and acceptance of the movement.”
Words matter, so let’s say exactly what we mean
Years ago, Toure was on MSNBC talking about the football player Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.
“The anchor said something about how fans are really mad about Kaepernick,” he explains. “And I was like, well, I'm an NFL fan and I'm not mad at all. Her question just completely left out the notion of Black fans.”
White people tend to use that kind of language quite a bit –– and Black folks do sometimes as well. But “it just feels so much better when you reject that way of thinking,” says Toure.
“If you're talking about white people, say you're talking about white people,” Danielle adds. “America is enraged. America is split. No, white people are enraged and white people are split. White people are the ones trying to burn this country to the ground. Black and Brown people are the ones doing everything we can to secure it.”
In that vein, Toure thinks it’s crucial to call out white supremacy instead of just racism.
“Racism is consistently believed to be, like, microaggressions that both Black and white people sling at each other. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about white supremacy and white privilege; systemic oppression that comes from the top and has a massive multi-generational impact on our lives.”
He tries “not to even use the word racism, because white supremacy is so much more accurate.”
“Language is important,” Danielle agrees. “The words we use matter. What we choose to gloss over is what we deny.”
And with that, we'll be back next week.
“Hang on,” Danielle says. And yeah –– still: Pray about it.
Check out the frustration, rage and absurdity that was the 2020 election on democracy-ishas Danielle Moodie and Toure discuss the current state of the political climate and our country from a Black perspective.