Apparently there is an "uncivil war" breaking out in America. The declaration follows some high profile incidents such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave the Red Hen, Homeland Security Secretary Kirsjten Nielsen being jeered, booed at and, eventually, forced to leave a D.C. Mexican restaurant, and Stephen Miller, the Trump advisor largely seen as the architect of the separating families policy, being confronted at a separate Mexican restaurant. This was followed by a report from Politico that Trump staffers are having a hard time finding dates and otherwise socializing in D. C.. On Saturday Maxine Waters encouraged "push back" against Trump and his staffers. On the other hand, Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic establishment are urging for “unity from sea to shining sea.”
Conservatives across the country have taken to their platforms, whether that's CNN, Fox News, or social media to decry their treatment. They want their cake and to eat it too. It would be hilarious if it weren't so terrifying.
Conservatives were ecstatic as Trump encouraged violence at his rallies and even offered to cover the legal fees of any of his supporters who had the bad luck of facing consequences. They had nothing but excuses when Trump bragged about sexual assault, called African and Caribbean countries shitholes, mocked a disabled reporter, or hurled any of the other myriad insults that Trump engages in on the daily. They are silent when Sarah Sanders routinely insults and belittles reporters. They are mute when confronted with Stephen Miller's ties to neo-nazis David Duke and Richard Spencer. For them to be up in arms about not being able to get dates or eat at a restaurant, once, is absurd. It is the height of hypocrisy, and so much more.
It's not just absurd and hypocritical for Conservatives to be outraged at this slight discomfort and annoyance, it is telling. It is telling of their extreme privilege and entitlement. In order to be outraged by these events you have to believe that those targeted by Trump and his supporters, the marginalized in society, are second-class citizens worthy of dehumanization. This bigotry is justified by a sort of white amnesia.
White amnesia is the cornerstone of the American worldview. It forgets the atrocities of the past; furthermore, it forgets the legacies of those atrocities. It erases any and all analysis of systemic power. White amnesia facilitates the belief that white people experience discrimination in America today. White amnesia allows for white folks to be outraged at the owner of the Red Hen, Maxine Waters, or anybody else that calls them out on their inconsistencies, or points out the harm those inconsistencies cause, while celebrating the right to discriminate. It allows for the cooptation of Civil Rights rhetoric while working diligently to suppress those rights through Voter ID and other policies and laws which act as systemic barriers to communities of color.
White amnesia is not simply limited to Conservatives. Liberals engage in white amnesia when they continuously call for civility and "uniting the country." This iteration of white amnesia looks a bit different than the preferred form for conservatives. Where conservatives play the victim liberals appeal to "decency" and a shared humanity. This approach literally forgets the barbarity and atrocious behavior of those of us called white. They ask people of color to forgive and forget without any substantial evidence that things would be different. This is because liberal white amnesia also erases any analysis of power and systems. This amnesia leaves the status quo largely in place while pretending to be more humane. Ironically, it is liberal white amnesia that Donald Trump and his supporters capitalize on when they claim, largely correctly, that Democrats have not sufficiently supported communities of color.
I'm all about treating people with respect and dignity. That respect and dignity can not come at the cost of others humanity; as James Baldwin said, "we can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist." Those of us who are committed, or intend to be committed, to justice and peace must resist white amnesia and be willing to make life a bit uncomfortable for those who insist on forgetting.