There Will Be No Peaceful End to This Crisis

History may not repeat, but it rhymes. Want to know what’s coming next? We can look to our past.

North Carolina had been a bright spot in the post-Reconstruction South. After decades of white terrorism designed to roll back civil rights gains, white laborers in the western highlands entered a coalition with the racially-mixed Republicans. By the mid-1890’s, this “Fusionist” party controlled every statewide office and had begun to implement meaningful reforms, undercutting the power of railroads and banks and improving workers lives.

The railroads fought back with an orchestrated campaign against “Negro Rule,” designed to split white laborers against their black allies. In advance of the 1898 elections they quickly organized “white supremacy clubs” to coordinate local terror campaigns and recruited the state’s fiery, but embattled racist Senator Ben Tillman to rile up mobs. Former Confederate soldier, Klansman, and former Congressman Alfred Waddell told a crowd just before the election, “We will never surrender to a ragged raffle of Negroes, even if we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.”

Thanks to a campaign of coordinated killings and intimidation of voters, including a crowd that threatened to lynch Governor Russell and mobs that blocked Blacks from the polls, the Democrats regained control of the state government. However, their efforts had still failed to restore white control of the state’s largest city, Wilmington. So, Waddell led thousands of whites on a rampage through the city.

White rioters took control of the courthouse at the center of town where Waddell read out his “White Declaration of Independence.” The next day they raided the town’s armory, then roamed the streets burning down Black-owned businesses and killing Black residents. A group accompanied Waddell to the Mayor’s office, where they forced the elected city government, including the police chief, to resign at gunpoint and installed themselves as replacements.

There’s no clear account of how many died in the coup. All efforts to gain redress failed and the new city government was treated as legitimate. Northern publishers like Collier’s Weekly would describe the incident as a “race riot” stirred up by Black agitators. White supremacists used their power in the state to shut down Black voting rights. One of the leaders of the coup would become the next Governor. The white supremacist coup in Wilmington marked the last gasp of post-Civil War Black freedom, and the effective end of efforts to join white and Black working people in a coalition.

Learn from Wilmington. We haven’t won yet. An effort to disrupt the Inauguration will probably be less successful than last week’s white riot, but after Biden takes office the focus will pivot to the states. That’s where the real war begins.

White supremacist mobs, with support and occasionally even leadership from law enforcement, will begin a campaign of intimidation against minorities and Democrats in places like Texas, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia, where they sense they are losing control. Republicans in Texas are already planning a campaign to turn Austin into an occupation zone, citing ‘runaway crime’ as a consequence of the city’s effort to reform its police force. Efforts like this are likely to be extended to cities like Atlanta and Charlotte, where urban residents are gaining influence over the state while shedding their attachment to whiteness.  

This will not be a peaceful campaign, though white supremacists’ influence over law enforcement will help them cloak their efforts, pretending to be keeping the peace over a restive populace. What happened in Wilmington in 1898 wasn’t an isolated incident. Similar scenes played out all over the South as Reconstruction was rolled back. They never really ended, flaring up from time to time when necessary to maintain repression. Similar scenes will play out now.

America is not going to become a post-racial nation, organized around its original dream of ‘all men are created equal’ without defeating the myth of white supremacy. Those who cherish that myth will not relinquish their hold on our collective imagination peacefully. They will not submit to the flimsy claims of electoral politics or the law. White supremacy is far more important than any national ideal to a majority of American white folks.

First steps? Know your power. Winning the 2020 Election just means Democrats have won command of the military and security services. If they lack the will to use that power, they’ll lose it, and everything else, very soon.

Democrats also have enormous influence over America’s most powerful and profitable business and media empires. That power has already come to bear as web service providers shut down Parler and social media companies locked out Donald Trump. Customers and employees need to press this matter relentlessly, denying any platform or resources to Republicans who fomented the January 6 coup. Every avenue of access to commerce should be shut down for Republicans who don’t disavow sedition. Before Republicans can regroup and counterattack, Democrats should use their leverage, starve them of the money and publicity they’ll need for their fight. The best way to limit casualties will be to limit Republicans’ resources.

Then, when the fighting emerges in the states, the public and Democratic leaders will have to be ready to take action while they still command security forces. The Bundy standoff cannot be repeated. There will be casualties. Shots will be fired. There is no peaceful path to a post-racial America. Democratic leaders should not imagine that ‘appeals to unity’ or peaceful demonstrations will restore order. Don’t kid yourselves. Our white supremacists, who are our Nazis, will not live peacefully under a government dominated by a diverse, urban majority. Defeat them forcefully and definitively, otherwise the country will either be splintered, or a new Fascist regime will emerge in Trump’s wake to snuff out democratic rule entirely.

14 Comments

  1. https://mobile.twitter.com/TerryBoutonHist/status/1348365375449268226

    IMO the biggest scandal in this was how underprepared law enforcement was. While it’s said not to assume malice when incompetence can explain it, I’m going with this was deliberate. I was monitoring the news that day at work because, I, just a random citizen who’s been surfing the www, knew there were people calling for bad trouble. I was worried that someone bad could happen. What excuse do people with actual intelligence gathering capabilities have?

  2. I dunno, if I am going to trapped in a war, I prefer to be far from the fighting. My opinion, Austin may not be Berlin, but it could be Paris. You said that Texas plans on some kind of state police occupation, and the Texas fascists will be a key source of power in the civil war. I would prefer to whether the storm in a major city on the west coast or in the north east bloc.

    Merriam-Webster reluctantly lists irregardless as a word, but point taken, It does look ugly on a page.

    As for baiting and overreach, I really don’t know what more the fascists have to do for the various law enforcement agencies to not start rounding up the insurrectionists at 12:01 pm on Jan 20th. Other than the fact that the Biden admin has to remove and replace god knows how many 5th columnists in so many of these organizations.

    That is the biggest problem. The fascists clearly control most local police, as you have stated before. The DHS obviously is under the tyrant’s control. How deep that control runs in the FBI, ATF, and military, I have no idea. Plus, I fear the military will stay hands-off in the war. I was going to say “coming war”, but it went hot last week.

    Though I was wrong about the competence of the fascists to throw the election, turns out my “fever dream” of civil war was not. The intent was always there, just not the competence.

    Though with all the American tech companies banding together to wipe out command and control has momentarily weakened the fascists, I can see any number of other countries happily offering infrastructure for Parler. Will the big ISP’s go so far as to block traffic into and out of the country, we shall see.

    I will say it again: While the tyrant breathes, the death cult is far from weak. I have come to believe that this cult without a leader is less dangerous. The spasm of violence were he to be executed would be enormous, but ultimately, the overall damage and deaths lower.

    1. Austin isn’t Berlin, but it might become Sarajevo – A robust, sophisticated, cosmopolitan (if still a bit provincial), highly educated, cultural center surrounded on all sides by violent nutjobs and isolated from any base of support.

      Yeah, I have concerns. But it’s time to go home.

  3. I’m not putting much hope on Biden. His speech on the day of open treason and insurrection was one of the most mealy-mouthed, backtracking speeches I heard that day. The most he could bring himself to say was that it “bordered” on sedition. I guess maybe he’s waiting for them to hang a Senator from the dais before he calls it “slightly sort-of possibly a little seditious”? How bad is it that the most eloquent condemnation of the insurrectionists was by that war criminal GWB, and not by the incoming Administration?

    And now, with reports that Biden is “hesitant” to get “embroiled” in impeachment proceedings at the start of his term. As if what Trump and his shock troops did was some mild irritant that isn’t worthy of his presidential attentions. Sounds like we’ll be getting a retread of Obama’s famous “we must look forward, not backward” bullshit. Funny how a black guy robbing a liquor store doesn’t get the same mulligan…

    1. Religion is culture. People make it whatever they need it to be. Wouldn’t matter whether it was Christianity, Buddhism or whatever. If plantation owners needed it to justify a highly profitable slavery ring, their culture’s religion could be molded to their purpose. Christianity is no more intrinsically associated with white supremacy than country music is.

      1. With all due respect, you could not be more wrong. Trump’s number one group of supporters are Evangelical Christians. Furthermore, you really should read Robert P. Jones’ books: “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity” and “The End of White Christian America”.

      2. Trump’s #1 supporters are America’s most religious people, which is the same base of support you’d expect to be the last bastion for any dying national mythology. In Spain under Franco it was old-school hyper-conservative Catholics. In Iran today it’s Shi’ite clerics. In Sri Lanka it’s been Buddhists. In early Nazi Germany it was conservative Protestants. Religion is culture.

        The most religious people in the dominant ethnic group in your country will be the last people to embrace any changes to the national mythology. Doesn’t matter what religion it is. Here, it’s evangelical Christians, but it has nothing to do with the underlying faith. There’s nothing special about it, which is a notion they would resist pretty heavily themselves.

  4. I am heading out for a walk, but a couple questions while I meander:

    1. Are you still planning on moving to Texas?

    2. Irregardless of the fact that long guns are allowed by citizens on government grounds in Kentuckystan, can Andy Beshear give “shoot to kill” orders the next time the fascists show up armed and with zip ties, on government grounds, like they did yesterday? I am sure those fascists looking to impeach Beshear would salivate at the idea, but next time they show up, I don’t see them leaving.

    https://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article248392675.html

    1. Yes, we’re still going to Austin. What’s the best place to be during a war? A place you’re surrounded by a dense network of family and friends, which you understand at an instinctive level, and where your contributions can have the most impact.

      There’s no such thing as irregardless.

      It’s good to bait them into overreach. Wait till one of them does something truly stupid and horrifying, which they will, then drop the hammer on all of them at once.

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