Dear Dad, F*¢K White Supremacy
I wish you were here so we could chat about the siege on the Capitol by White Supremacists
A note: This post talks frankly about White Supremacy, life, and death.
This autumn my dad asked me to start a project with him. I suggested we write letters to each other based on how he used to write me cards as a kid. We’ve sent a few back and forth. It’s been beautifully healing.
We’ve both agreed to share them publicly. We feel it may bring some insight for others.
Below is a letter I wrote. My dad can no longer write me back.
More will come.
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I’m writing to you today because the events unfolding in this country—a White Supremacist coup—are something we would have discussed endlessly, and I am missing listening to your perspective. I know we wouldn’t have seen things exactly the same. That’s why I want to talk to you. You helped me see things I wouldn’t normally see. I know I did the same for you.
We talked a lot this summer about the election, about how you voted for Joe Biden in the primary because you thought Biden was the pragmatic choice. You told me you thought other white folx would be too put off by Sander’s socialism and that Trump could easily incite fear and panic over a socialist takeover. As summer progressed, I remember you being so disappointed in Biden’s response to the growing needs of fellow neighbors that socialism was no longer something to fear.
After the Democratic Convention, we talked about the legacy of racism in the United States. You were beginning to learn about the ways in which our government systematically destroyed Black neighborhoods through the building of the interstate highway. Specifically, you were learning the history of the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul, MN. One of our neighbors grew up in Rondo, which made the devastation of that neighborhood all the more personal to you. You believed that the suburbs, which benefitted from the interstate highway system, must play a role in repairing the harm done to Black communities to create White suburban wealth.
In learning more about government’s systemic harm, you started questioning whether Biden would be able to adequately respond to the disparity in this country. You saw that we missed an opportunity to push a more radical agenda, one that could have provided more material benefit to all of our neighbors, especially the ones hurt by our government. You didn’t know exactly what to do with all of that new information, and I know that it overwhelmed you. It is incredibly difficult to look directly at the harm caused by the United States of America, when you have been told your entire life that the American Dream is the dream of everyone.
What I admired so much about our conversations this past Spring and Summer was that every time we talked we found ways back into conversations about value(s), politics, and history. Sometimes, these conversations were only a few minutes and then we’d have to change the subject because it produced too much anxiety. Other times, we’d go back and forth exchanging our ideas and beliefs passionately until we both started laughing at something incredibly inane and stupid, like a punny joke or the lost train of thought we’d find ourselves in because our passion clouded clarity. These conversations are such a gift to me for they open my perspective; I wish we could have one about the White Supremacists under the order of Trump who sieged the Capitol Building on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, and the Democrat’s response.
John and I watched the White Supremacist siege of the Capitol Building as it unfolded. We turned on cable news and flipped back and forth between CNN and MSNBC. I also endlessly scrolled Twitter and watched footage roll in in real time. The juxtaposition between watching pundits and reporters spin the events happening versus watching the violence without comment highlighted how much our media is the problem. On camera we saw White Supremacists attacking our CapitJol while the police did nothing. And on CNN, I heard Rick Santorum, a man who should never be paid to be on any news program ever again because he is directly responsible for violence and harm and trauma writ large to queer and trans people and immigrants and women and so many others, whitewash White Supremacy and distance himself from Trump, the man Santorum has been paid to shill for on CNN for the last four years.
It was such a nauseating day, and so many of the details, a little more than a week later, are so incredibly fuzzy. I do remember John telling me to turn off the television and put down my phone at one point. I remember obliging, and I think I went into the kitchen to cook, what I always do when I am stressed or anxious. I really wanted to pick up the phone and talk to you.
I know you would have seen the failure of the police too. We talked a lot this past summer and fall, in the wake of the suffocation of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin while three of this fellow officers watched, about police and abolishing them. We didn’t see eye to eye on everything. You pushed me to really consider how we should respond to pedophiles and mass murders and the folx making our communities physically unsafe. What I appreciated most as you pushed me is that you did not say cops needed to be the response; instead, you were curious as to how we ensure our neighbors really are safe. I remember asking, “Do you really believe that cops keep our neighbors safe?”
My experience with and witnessing of the police as a white, male-perceived queer in San Francisco has lead me to the conclusion that police do not keep us safe. Instead, they give us a mirage of safety, and that mirage can only be seen from the right position. The White Supremacist siege revealed just how fragile that mirage is. I wonder what questions you would ask. Would you make the connection between the failure of the police and their simultaneous complicity in White Supremacy?
The Democrat’s response to the White Supremacist siege terrifies me as much as the siege itself. Already, Democratic leadership has muddied the language around it through using the broader terms “domestic terrorism” and “ideological extremism” rather than saying the words White Supremacy or White Supremacist every single time. A few key Congresspeople (Rep. Cori Bush comes to mind) have been clear and straightforward in their language. But the 70+ year olds running the Party know that saying White Supremacy means acknowledging White Supremacy, and they are complicit in its furtherance.
Whenever I need to remind myself of who the Democrats believe to be included in “ideological extremism”, I recall August of 2017 when the fascist Joey Gibson and his Patriot Prayer came to the Bay Area. In the lead up to the supposed rally, many of San Francisco’s “leaders” urged San Franciscans to not directly confront the fascists and let the cops do their job. Mayor Ed Lee denounced hate and White Supremacy saying it has no place in the Bay Area. Love was the answer, so he along Juanita More and Cleve Jones organized a rally for love at City Hall.
The day of the rally, John and I decided to join our neighbors directly confronting the fascists. We knew in our bones and blood that you cannot cede ground to bullies. So we coordinated Signal communications with some comrades and set off across San Francisco. Each location we arrived—the Marina, Chrissy Field, Alamo Square, the Mission, Chrissy Field again—we were greeted by comrades standing in direct opposition to fascism. At the end of the day, we were back in Chrissy Field because we got word Gibson and crowd were trying to make one final show on federal ground. When we got there, there were III%ers (a far right militia who was part of the White Supremacist siege on the Capitol) with rifles on their shoulders being yelled at by antifascists. Between the fascists and the antifascists stood the police. Their backs were to the fascists. Moments later the III%ers were safely escorted by police to their vehicles, and they were allowed to leave.
The next day there was a fascist “Say No to Marxism” rally planned in Berkeley. Antifascists and locals organized a counter “Rally against Hate”. Later in the afternoon violence broke out when a small group of protestors crossed the barricades put up by the police to separate the fascists. They were intent on making sure the fascists did not feel safe in Berkeley. They believed strategic, targeted violence could stem the tide of growing fascism.
I know you and I did not see eye to eye on the use of violence as a strategy to combat hate and violence. You loathed violence, and thought all violence was counter-productive. I tried arguing with you that we need to stand up directly to fascism and White Supremacy, that White Supremacy is the ultimate violence, and using physical confrontation as a tactic against White Supremacy is not violent in the same way. I also shared that I watched police shelter, aid, comfort, and abet fascists in both San Francisco and Berkeley. I wondered exactly who the cops were there to protect. You still believed they were keeping the locals safe.
In the aftermath of the attempted Patriot Prayer and “Say No to Marxism” rallies, I started hearing Democratic leaders start condemning Antifa alongside the fascists and White Supremacists. Mayor Arreguin of Berkeley said, “We also need to hold accountable and encourage people not to associate with these extremists because it empowers them and gives them cover.” (CBS Local, August 28, 2017)
And Representative Pelosi released a press release on August 29, 2017, that reads:
"Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts. The violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted.
"In California, as across all of our great nation, we have deep reverence for the Constitutional right to peaceful dissent and free speech. Non-violence is fundamental to that right. Let us use this sad event to reaffirm that we must never fight hate with hate, and to remember the values of peace, openness and justice that represent the best of America."
I remember reading these statements back in 2017 and suddenly finding myself aligned with antifascists for standing against fascism. It was disorienting to suddenly be called violent, hateful, and extreme for not wanting fascists roaming the streets of where I call home. Our Democratic leaders were equating antifascists with White Supremacists. Both were considered extremists.
During the opening remarks for the second impeachment of Trump for the White Supremacist siege of the Capitol, Speaker Pelosi said, “Those insurrectionists were not patriots. They were not part of a political boast to be catered to. They were domestic terrorists, and justice must prevail. They did not appear out of a vacuum. They were sent here, sent here by the president with words such as a cry to fight like hell. Words matter. Truth matters. Accountability matters.”
Pelosi did not call the insurrectionists White Supremacists. She called them “domestic terrorists”. This matters. It means that there will be a renewed call for additional policies targeting domestic terrorists once Biden is President. And given Pelosi’s past statements, these new laws will include antifascists. This is unacceptable.
Pelosi said it best, “Words matter. Truth matters. Accountability matters.”
The people who stormed the Capitol were White Supremacists. We must be vigilant and consistent in naming who it is that is inciting violence and harm. If we cannot name in specificity who perpetuated the siege, we will never be able to heal or move on or unify. There can be no healing without extricating the disease.
I wonder what you would have thought about all of this, Dad. I wish you were here to talk to and challenge me, to push back on my own bias. For I know that ultimately, healing also requires deeper understanding of each other, even those who may be White Supremacists.
I know deep in my heart you stand against fascism and White Supremacy, and as such you and I are both antifascists. I also know you didn’t see yourself in that light. I wish you were here to help me find other language.
Instead, I’m writing to you in hopes of becoming clearer in my own words. While I don’t agree with Speaker Pelosi’s conclusion, I do believe, “Truth matters.”
For more information about White Supremacy, please check out:
“The problem is white supremacy” by Barbara Smith, published June 30, 2020 in the Boston Globe
Further resources at: System of White Supremacy and White Privilege from Racial Equity Tools