Op-Ed: We Must Name & Confront the Threat of the White Mob

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

Donald J. Trump and right-wing media provocateurs have spent the past four years stoking a racist concept of the mob—specifically, a Black and brown mob—to rally the original, most empowered and dangerous mob in the United States: the white mob.

The predictable capstone to this empowerment came on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Trump’s supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol while Congress was in the process of certifying the Electoral College’s votes for president and vice president, forcing a lockdown and a temporary shutdown of the vote. One of his supporters carried a Confederate battle flag into the Capitol rotunda, a woman was shot to death during the insurrection, and three others died due to medical emergencies.

The myth of American exceptionalism that erases the white mob from textbooks precludes our ability to halt the repetition of its horrors. The white mob exists to uphold white supremacy and terrorizes both Black and brown people. The same vigilante zeal that hunted down Ahmaud Arbery masses militias at the border to menace Black and brown migrants. One decade before George Floyd was being asphyxiated by police, a mob of border officials tortured and killed a Mexican father, Anastasio Hernández Rojas, as he lay sobbing and begging for help. The incident was filmed by bystanders, like Floyd’s killing, but the perpetrators, like so many others, went unpunished.

The white mob exists to uphold white supremacy.

The atrocities of our era are rooted in a national history replete with population-level violence against non-white peoples. Besides slavery, little of this history is known to most Americans. Trump’s vast ignorance has, ironically, gone some way to changing that fact. Because of the bizarre decision to locate the first coronavirus-era Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma last year, many people are now aware of the 1921 Tulsa massacre. A genocidal spasm wherein more than 300 Black Americans were slaughtered while their homes were bombed from the sky and the prosperous Greenwood business district (Black Wall Street) was put to the torch by white supremacists.

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Even then, anti-Black riots were nothing new. In 1898, white insurrectionists massacred dozens of Black people in Wilmington, North Carolina and, in 1919, Red Summer riots led to the murder of hundreds of Black people in dozens of cities across the nation. In the 19th century, white men joined the Texas Rangers to roam the U.S.-Mexico border to execute Mexicans, Native Americans and runaway slaves. Mythologized as rugged heroes, the group was then known as the Ku Klux Klan of the Southwest.

Today, Trump and his allies justify state violence against Black and Brown lives by manufacturing visions of Black and Brown mobs. In 1989, Trump paid for large advertisements demanding the execution of five Black and Latino boys, who he called “muggers and murderers,” falsely accused of raping and beating a white woman in Central Park.

Four decades later, during his presidency, he spoke of migrants as “animals,” even reportedly going as far as to suggest shooting them in the legs.

“This is an invasion of our Country and our military is waiting for you!” he tweeted of families seeking refuge in 2018. “When the looting starts the shooting starts,” he said of Black Lives Matter protesters—a statement that now lives in irony in the wake of the American Beer Hall Putsch that he fomented Wednesday.

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As Trump manufactured the threat of the Brown/Black mob, the threat of the white mob grew. Those known as the “boogaloo bois” plotted civil war. White supremacist gunned down more people. The hate that murdered nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015 massacred 23 mostly Mexican-American people, in El Paso, Texas in summer 2019. And now, in the winter of 2021, Trump’s mob has laid a literal siege to American democracy itself.

Anti-Black riots are nothing new.

In the white supremacist novel The Camp of the Saints, promoted by Trump’s senior advisor and speechwriter Stephen Miller, the white world is destroyed at the hands of a Black/brown mob. The book says they are the children of “the beast,” or Satan’s beast in the Book of Revelations, from which the novel draws its title. Its heroes call for the slaughter of the Black and brown characters: “If only he’d go the next step, and tell them to shoot, tell them to blast the crowd to hell!” and “No hope, Mr. Mayor. Unless you kill them all, that is …”

In June, Trump tweeted a letter from Rome archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano suggesting that BLM protesters were the offspring of Satan or “the children of darkness.” It praised Trump for defending “the children of light.” Trump said he was “honored” by the letter and recommended that everyone read it.

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The myth of Black and brown people as evil and subhuman has been used throughout history to justify a multitude of atrocities: slavery, mass incarceration, mass deportation, mass shootings, insurrection. But it is the white mob that poses the existential threat, and Trump has cashed in on its bloodthirstiness.

Still, Trump’s abuse has also backfired on him; during the George Floyd protests and the pandemic, unprecedented solidarity emerged between Black, Latino and Afro-Latino communities as they confronted their shared experiences of police violence and institutional neglect in protests and on social media. Marches, art, T-shirts and the hashtag #TuLuchaEsMiLucha, which translates to “#YourFightIsMyFight,” celebrated the convergence of these communities of color, which played a significant role in Joe Biden’s win this November.

The white mob poses an existential threat, and Trump has cashed in on its bloodthirstiness.

While Black-White bonds are often celebrated in America as an amelioration of the nation’s sin of slavery, far less celebrated and well-known is the history of Black-brown coalition. But Black and brown people have shared these troubled lands—and the fight for justice—just as long. As the 1781 census shows, almost all the founders of the original Pueblo de los Angeles settlement were Black, Indigenous or of mixed race. Black mestizos also played a central role in freeing Mexico from Spain, most prominent among the Black mestizo president Vicente Guerrero, who galvanized a progressive constituency to abolish slavery nationally in 1829.

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Today the Black-brown political coalition across a range of issues makes sense because the same carceral logic that has rendered the African-American prison population more numerous than the entire incarcerated population of all but four nations on earth is also caging up immigrant children in cages. Given this history and the violent white nationalism of the moment, Black-brown coalition is more necessary now than ever.

Early in his presidency, Trump actively sought to divide Black Americans from Latin Americans of all races; a mission made clear when he cited the murder of Jamiel Shaw by a Latino immigrant. The white supremacist website AmRen—promoted by advisor Miller—has an entire “Blacks versus Hispanics” archive documenting race riots and rapes, with a comments section that celebrates the conflicts.

They don’t want unity between us.

“White supremacists don’t want Black and brown people to know our beautiful history of solidarity because they don’t want unity between us,” Ron Wilkins, a retired African studies professor and author of the upcoming self-published children’s book Black and Brown Unity, tells Remezcla.

As violent Trump supporters seek to enact their highly premeditated strategies of insurrection, trial by combat and rule by mob, Black and brown people are uniting peacefully to educate and mobilize against the threat of the white mob. It is obvious that Trump should be immediately removed from office. But this is not enough. It is time for all white progressives and moderates not just to reject Trump and Wednesday’s anti-democratic mayhem, but to actively root out the racist revanchism which runs so deep and that has over the past four years fissured America, deformed policy and civic life, and that now buckles the very foundations of our nation.