White backlash to Black Lives Matter was swift. It was also expectedSan Francisco Chronicle, by Otis R. Taylor Jr. July 9, 2020
The expected hostility toward the racial uprising energizing the country has begun.
It was expected by behaviorists and historians because history reveals that when some white people feel threatened by social justice movements, they lash out.
On July 4, the paint had barely dried on the 165-foot long Black Lives Matter mural on the street in front of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez when a man and a woman showed up. They dumped black paint on the yellow letters.
“This is not happening in my town,” the woman said as she spread the paint with a roller.
The hateful display of counterfeit patriotism was video-recorded by bystanders and went viral. On Tuesday, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton charged Nicole Anderson and David Nelson with a hate crime for defacing the mural.
“It was a peaceful mural, and it was a powerful way, as we’ve seen all over the country, that has been used to think about the importance of Black lives,” Becton told me. “But this one in particular was to think about the importance of Black lives in Contra Costa County.”
The county is roughly 43% white, according to census data. Black people make up less than 10% of the county’s population, while Latinos account for about 26% of county residents.
A 2018 report by UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project and the California Housing Partnership studied housing prices and demographic changes in the county from 2000 to 2015 to, among other things, understand trends producing “patterns of segregation and unequal access to high-resource neighborhoods that have defined the county’s racial and economic geography for decades.”
By 2015, the report concluded, “approximately half of low-income Black and Latinx households in the county lived in segregated, high-poverty tracts — approximately triple the rate of low-income Asian and White households, and a steep increase from 2000. Families in these types of neighborhoods typically face greater barriers to economic mobility [and] are more likely to suffer adverse health outcomes.”
Once again, systemic racism impacts the health, economic and educational outcomes of people of color.
The permitted Black Lives Matter mural in Martinez was repainted almost immediately, but get this: The very next day, a man was arrested for allegedly pulling a gun on people looking at the mural, according to the Police Department.
The retaliation is driven by hate, resentment and fear. Don’t be surprised if it lasts beyond next year’s presidential inauguration.
“These are old means of subordination that white people have used,” said UC Berkeley psychology Professor Dacher Keltner, referring to recent viral incidents, including in Indiana where a Black man was attacked in the woods by white men. “This racism is the fabric of this culture.”
And when protesters rallied earlier this week to support Vauhxx Booker, the Black man who called the Indiana incident an “attempted lynching,” someone drove their car through the crowd, NBC News reported.
Wait, there’s more. A white woman used the N-word while arguing with a Black woman in a Sacramento-area convenience store on June 25. A white diner called someone enjoying a family celebration at a Carmel Valley restaurant an “Asian piece of s—.”
“Trump’s gonna f— you,” he said, rising from the table.
He already has.
The president is a grifter who knows hate is currency in America. He stokes white fear and resentment by painting Black Lives Matter protesters as terrorists and thugs. On July 1, he called Black Lives Matter murals symbols of hate. If his lies were your main source of information about people of color, you’d think the white, Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous people marching for social justice were a bigger threat to this country than the coronavirus.
That’s why a white couple in St. Louis pointed their guns at protesters who marched past their home.
“The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism — it’s a lie,” said the man in the Martinez incident, identified as Nelson, who wore a red T-shirt with “four more years” on the front. “Why don’t you guys learn about history?”
Once again, ignorance is a hallmark of white supremacy.
Here’s a brief lesson in American history: Southern white people went to war and sacrificed a generation to preserve the right to buy, sell and trade Black bodies. Then this country built statues to honor human traffickers and to remind Black people that their place — no, our lives — were conditional. After slavery was abolished, the lynchings of Black people became appointment viewing. Black people’s homes, churches and offices were bombed during the civil rights movement.
I could go on, but you get the historical context. In this country, when some white people feel their way of life — their status — is threatened, they respond with violence.
Dana Frank, a research professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, told me that some white resentment turns into anger instead of reflection.
“There’s white people that are well-meaning or confused and clueless, and then there’s the people who are actively crossing over into hostility. The second category is much harder to reach,” she said. “I think it’s very hard for your average white person to see all those forms of institutionalized racism in which they come out ahead. How do you open the door to somebody seeing that without that person feeling threatened?”
By getting white people to talk to white people about systemic racism.
Justin Gomez, who obtained the permit for the street mural, organized the effort a week after flyers calling for white unity were distributed in Martinez. Gomez, who is Filipino and was raised in Walnut Creek, has two children. He’s a stay-at-home dad, and his wife is a health care worker.
He told me he was blown away at how quickly the mural was defaced. Then again, he lives in Contra Costa County.
“We see Confederate flags,” Gomez said. “We see a lot of racist rhetoric in our local social media circles, so we fully knew that that was going to happen and we were ready for it.”
Six gallons of yellow paint were delivered to him Monday.
“We’re ready to fix it again,” he said.