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Protecting our Precious Institutions

Protecting our Precious Institutions  Are we prepared for intensifying racist attacks?

Published in – April 18, 2019


News of the cowardly terrorist attack on the Highland Research and Education Center in New Market, TN hit me like a punch in the gut. A fire completely engulfed the administrative building which housed priceless historic documents and artifacts leaving in its wake unrecognizable charred remains. The racist symbol found at the scene is the same one on the recovered gun used by the white shooter in the New Zealand massacre.

For decades, thousands have made their trek to the Highlander to build, to plan, to rejuvenate–in the name of civil and human rights. I was privileged to spend a week there last year as part of the Black Feminist Organizing School. I have been there several times on the years and always considered it to be hallowed ground.

The Center’s co-executive directors, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxwell-Steel were shaken but resolute in their response.

“Highlander has been a movement home for nearly 87 years and has weathered many storms. This is no different.”

I believe it is different. The U.S. has witnessed an explosion of racist hate crimes. Propelling those numbers is the wanna-be fascist in the White House. The donald has been unapologetic in his racist and xenophobic rhetoric and actions.

According to a recent report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crime totals in the 10 largest cities are at an all-time high. Since African Americans were the most targeted group, I’m thinking we need to start thinking strategically and offensively in real time.

The modus operandi of these racist cowards throughout the years have been sneak attacks or mob attacks. If it’s one or two Blacks or Muslims, expect the show of force in actual numbers or the type of artillery used. If it’s a group to be the object of racist violence, you can expect stealth. Knowing this, can we really prepare for such a looming domestic attack on local soil—like your church?

Three Black churches were destroyed in rural Louisiana over a 10-day period which coincidentally started about the same time as the Highlander fire. Like that fire, no one was physically injured but Black history undeniably took a hit. All three churches were over 100 years old. The white suspect, Holden Matthews, faces three counts of arson.

I am not from the school that believes love neutralizes hate, or that you pray for your enemies and everything will be alright. I wish it was that simple. Black folks need to go on the offensive and I don’t mean being hyper-vigilant 24/7. That’s the kind of stress that’ll kill you.

I mean being better organized at public events and knowing who’s coming and going. I mean challenging white folks to check their own. These mass shooters and white supremacist activists belong to families and to communities. We must lobby to make hate crimes carry stiffer penalties. We must advocate for more and effective mental health programs.

Last and certainly not least, I’m talking about dethroning the imperial wizard—uh, I mean president—in 2020. He’s done enough damage on multiple levels, but trump’s racist vitriol is truly Making American Unsafe Again for Black folks.

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