‘Militias’, stand-offs and the privilege of being white

Christina Greer Ph.D. | 1/14/2016, 5:39 p.m.
By the time this piece goes to print, I have no idea if the standoff/armed takeover of a federal building ...
Dr. Christina Greer

By the time this piece goes to print, I have no idea if the standoff/armed takeover of a federal building in Oregon will still capture the attention of the mainstream media outlets. In so many ways, this entire incident reeks of last grasps of scared white men. Men who fear their country has been “lost” and now feel entitled to reclaim it ... on federal property.

The fact that no one has been harmed, shot at or imprisoned is a clear indicator of the power of whiteness that still prevails in this country. A little boy carrying a toy gun in an open carry state can be gunned down by the police in under three seconds, but scores of men with loaded arms can take over a building owned and operated by the U.S. government

Several thoughtful articles have been written about the use of the word “thug” when discussing Black men, women and even children. Similarly, when discussing Muslim Americans or individuals of Middle Eastern ancestry, the term “terrorist” is often too easily applied with no evidence or linkage. Since these terms are used so liberally by conservative, moderate and sometimes even liberal media, I am reclaiming these terms. The men in Oregon are both thugs and terrorists. They represent the most dangerous thought processes in this country and should be dealt with in the full capacity of the law and swiftly.

Some readers may recall the MOVE movement in Philadelphia on May 13, 1985, Mother’s Day, in which a standoff between followers of John Africa’s Black Liberation Movement ended with a helicopter bombing in which six adults and five children were incinerated and 65 homes were burned to the ground. It took the authorities no time to secure and use a C4 military-grade bomb (in addition to over 10,000 rounds of ammunition), killing men, women and children. To this day, no one has been charged with these killings, and no government officials have had to explain how and why they secured military weapons.

So we fast-forward 30 years to armed men who have vowed to continue this standoff. They have pledged not to move or waver. Last year’s white “militia” standoff resulted in the U.S. government backing down and allowing white ranchers to continue to let their cattle graze without paying taxes or back taxes. Let that sit for a moment.

Therefore, until the majority of Americans see the vast disparity in how people of color are treated in this country, we will not move forward as a nation. Black people know there is a problem. Muslim Americans know there is a problem. It is high time white Americans connect the dots, leave their cocoon of racial privilege and speak out against these dangerous factions of their own people.

Christina Greer is an associate professor of political science at Fordham University. She is the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” She can be found on Twitter at @Dr_CMGreer.