Sunday, January 10, 2021

Racial Justice: Beyond the Book Group

Jake Angeli on Jan. 6 after storming the Capitol as part of the Trump-backed riot

by Patrice Priya Wagner

While many people are calling what happened at the US Capitol last Wednesday an insurrection, it looked to me more like a major battle in an ongoing civil war. Keeping the yogic concept of satya, non-lying, truthfulness, close to my heart, I feel the call to speak these words. The more I hear and read about the events of the attempted coup by a mob of violent White Nationalists, Q-Anon followers, and other extremists, the more the situation appears like a war.

The US is a divided country and what I thought was a range of gray tones that differentiated political opinions appears to be a stark contrast in black and white. The Trump supporters who ransacked the Capitol on January 6 carried Confederate flags and wore shirts bearing racist and anti-Semitic messages such as Welcome to Camp Auschwitz and 6MWE which means six million wasn't enough, referring to the number of Jews killed by Nazis in WWII. According to New York Times' writer Astead W. Herndon, "The most ardent portion of Mr. Trump's white base are engulfed by a toxic mix of conspiracy theories and racism."

As I see it, you either agree with the US Constitution or you don't; you either want the country to offer the same rights and privileges that you receive to citizens who may look, sound, and think differently than yourself, or you don't. There isn't a lot of wiggle room there.

Please don't think of last Wednesday's events as actions of a group of citizens exercising their constitutional rights because what transpired was illegal. Breaking and entering, vandalizing a building, and defacing public property are criminal offenses that have been on the books for many years.

As a White woman working for racial justice and social change, I could see the ugly face of White Privilege on display as I watched the events of the day unfold. Listening to a CNN news segment on TV, I felt encouraged when Brian Stelter, @reliablesources, answered a question with: "White Supremacy. What happened was because of White Supremacy." I rarely hear this truth spoken aloud on mainstream television news and nearly fell out of my chair.

Most of the members of the riot mob were White or appeared to be White; their attitude of intolerance has existed in this country for centuries, and last Wednesday it reared its ugly head for all to see. Whether the mob is deemed to be a vocal and violent fringe group or a sizable element of the political spectrum, it's time to deal with the prejudice, White Supremacy, and White Privilege that has been built into the infrastructure of our society allowing something like the riot to occur.

President-elect Biden made a public statement that day saying, "The scenes of chaos in the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are." While I appreciate Biden's attempt to bring calm to a chaotic situation, I agree with some civil rights leaders who, according to Astead W. Herndon said, "took away the opposite message, that it was time to recognize the scope of the challenges facing the country" in addressing racial injustice.

Herndon continued with, "Rashad Robinson, the president of the civil rights group Color of Change, said the incoming Democratic administration should make racial justice a governing priority, not just an idea to pay lip service to on the trail... He added: We don't get racial justice out of a true democracy. We get true democracy out of racial justice."

When Trump posted a video after the riot, speaking to his supporters and others, I was chilled by his sentence near the end: "Our incredible journey is only just beginning." Trump and his supporters won't quietly slip away but are here to stay. Just because some of them will face legal repercussions for their actions, they'll continue to act reprehensibly.

I won't be silent and inactive at this juncture because that would make me complicit with them. I'll be reviewing lessons from Beyond the Book Group that taught me how to effectively converse with someone who holds racist views. The four-week online program, being offered again in a few weeks, gave me the tools to engage in conversation with someone who doesn't believe in the importance of Black Lives Matter or just doesn't care about BLM.

Amber Karnes, Accessible Yoga board president, provided in her recent post about the insurrection a list of suggestions on how to get involved in racial justice.

We'll see what additional opportunities for service arise in the coming days and weeks––there's so much work to be done and it's high time we roll up our sleeves and get to it.

This post was written by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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