The biggest stumbling block to progress on racial equality? ‘Whitelash’

The biggest stumbling block to progress on racial equality? ‘Whitelash’
Jessica Byrd (Image: AIR-TV screen grab)

Who doesn’t love neologisms? They add so much to our culture and daily intercourse.

Last week a new coinage was sprung on us by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who ended his prayer at the swearing-in of the 117th Congress with the affirmation “amen and awoman.”

The media were quick to put the kibosh on that embarrassing episode, which is a shame because they no doubt silenced indignant voices from the LGBT community over the offensiveness of specifying only two genders.

Yesterday, we learned yet another new coinage: whitelash. I can only imagine from the context that it is supposed to be a take on backlash, which makes it almost as stupid as awoman since the first word in that compound is not black but back.

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The neologism was offered up in a panel discussion on MSNBC’s “American Voices With Alicia Menendez.” Democratic strategist Jessica Byrd, who was on that panel, was attempting to make the point that the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday — which was an example of whitelash — almost eclipsed the momentousness of the outcome of the Georgia Senate run-off.

In the video that follows Byrd explains to her host:

[T]here was just that memory of that pit in my stomach where I thought Georgia organizers aren’t going to get the coverage that they deserve, because once again, white lash, which has long in the history of the United States followed civil rights progress. So we are really sitting inside a continuum of this type of white rage and extremism that follows our progress. And so I think it’s everyone and what I say to myself is, progress will still always win, because the multi-racial majority, intergenerational, across geography, across state, it will win. Not just because we have more people than them but because truly our job in civil society is to build a country that can govern for the people who live in it. And we’re not going anywhere. There are black people in the future. There are Latinos in the future. There are young people who are already planning for the future, and they should prepare for the brightest and biggest and bold future possible. Because what that split screen told us is that we have to choose progress now. It’s not just about whether or not a voter can give us — I’m so glad Georgia voters chose to do. It is also about whether we are brave enough right now, right now, to say what’s really happening so that when people on our teams, in our organizations, in our communities hear that the doors are saying I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know for one thing is I’m scared. They’ve got more guns than us. And it seems like they’re not being expected to follow the same rules as us. (RELATED: ‘To prevent future acts of domestic terrorism, apply laws we already have to white people’) 

What our job to do as organizers is to say ‘I’ve got your back. Feel me at your side. Feel me at your back. And know that, in this moment in history, when we look back on it, you chose the side of your future and of progress, and that, that, more than anything is what we need now.’ And so what’s been sitting on my heart since that split is how much courage all of us will actually need to move the ball forward and to demonstrate that this not only will never happen again but that we trust when black and brown people say that we are afraid that violence has no place in our democratic process, no place in our campaigns or our candidates, that we trust them the first time and extinguish it whenever it rears its head. [Emphasis added]

“Violence has no place in our democratic process, no place in our campaigns or our candidates?” Her capacity to utter those words with a straight face in the wake of the “peaceful protests” of the last six months is a sad indication of what we are all up against.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer and regular contributor to "Liberty Unyielding."

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