The morning after last week’s U.S. Capitol Insurrection, my 6-year-old, Keziah, and I went on a mommy-daughter date to celebrate the end of winter break. We laid out an adorable picnic near a pond, played a game of Candyland, and giggled as the ducks ducked their heads underwater and helped clean one another’s feathers.
Last time we were at this park, we were enjoying watching the ducks in and around the pond. Keziah was walking up as close as she could to them, enjoying studying them. When she’d get close, they’d often scurry back into the water.
Near us, there was an older white woman throwing bread for them to eat. In a rude, impatient voice, she snipped at Keziah: “Stop chasing them away! I’m trying to feed them!” First of all, the audacity to take that tone with not even a fellow adult, but a 6-year-old.
Second of all, from what I could recall, feeding bread to the ducks is not even allowed. But not seeing any signage in that immediate area to point her to, I simply said, “Ma’am, she’s a child” and moved on.
But my mind went straight to that incident in reflecting on the armed white men who stormed our nation’s Capitol Building.
Whether or not our little duck-feeding incident was racially motivated, the analogy to white supremacy is spot-on: a person asserting their dominion and self-defined rules over a space that should be available to everyone, while at the same time excusing themselves from any rules laid out for the common good.
White people, this is our default setting.
Our education and life experiences have taught us to take up space, ignoring the harm caused to those whom we bump in the process. They have convinced us of our “rightness” and, at the same time, have assured us that the rules don’t apply to us. We will spend a lifetime unlearning this. No matter where we are on our journeys of racial justice advocacy, I hope we don’t walk away from yesterday’s display of unabashed white supremacy without continued introspection. When I enter a metaphorical room, do I look to see who may have been squeezed out? Do I stop and interrogate myself when I theorize in my head about how BIPOC activists “could have said/done that differently”? Do I justify ways in which my privilege has allowed me to bypass rules that my BIPOC friends must adhere to?
Food for thought. I will also shared some words on the topic from Brittany Packnett Cunningham — the most spot-on take on last week’s events that I’ve heard thus far:
“This is the literal example of white supremacy. What does white supremacy mean? It means that white people believe that they have dominion over everybody and dominion over everything; that they are, in fact, supreme. So we saw a group of white people, of white supremacists here, thinking that they own a country that they colonized and therefore they can do whatever they want with it. They think they can storm any building in that country because they believe they own it. They think that they can erect a noose on the side of a building that was built by enslaved Africans in America because they think they have full permission to do so — and did so on camera because they knew the police would do nothing about it. But they do not own this country. They do not own democracy. They do not own us. They are tragically confused, and we will not be intimidated, despite the fact that police did not hold the line today.”