Opinion Why Black people are afraid of ‘crazy’ White people
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Black people are not afraid of White people. We’re afraid of “crazy” White people.
Let me try to explain. Things felt so dicey during the Trump years, I half-joked that my husband and I might have to reenact that scene from “The Sound of Music” and flee the country. Now, an alarming new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that my “Operation von Trapp” might need to go live. The ranks of “crazy” White people appear to be growing — and the rest of us don’t know what to do about it.
“Crazy,” of course, is not a clinical diagnosis, and what constitutes “crazy” changes by the day as much as by the generation. Right now, I am defining “crazy” as anyone who believes any aspect of the racist “great replacement” conspiracy. This is the noxious idea that liberals are deliberately replacing White people with non-Whites and immigrants. It’s what allegedly drove an 18-year-old man to target Black people in Buffalo, killing 10 and wounding three.
According to the SPLC poll, “Nearly 7 in 10 Republicans surveyed agree to at least some extent that demographic changes in the United States are deliberately driven by liberal and progressive politicians attempting to gain political power by ‘replacing more conservative white voters.’”
What’s terrifying is that this twisted belief is more widely held than we want to admit. The SPLC reports that more than a third of all respondents felt that demographic change in the United States is “a threat to white Americans and their culture and values.” Nearly half agreed that demographic changes were part of “a purposeful plan to replace white voters.” Crazy, right?
This explains some of the eye-opening results in a Washington Post-Ipsos poll of Black adults released last month after the Buffalo shooting. As the kids say, I feel seen.
- 75 percent of African Americans worry they or a loved one will be physically attacked because they are Black.
- 70 percent of African Americans think at least half of White Americans hold white-supremacist beliefs.
- 75 percent of African Americans say white supremacists are a “major threat” to Black Americans.
This present-day Black fear of White violence was perfectly expressed by Rob Redding, one of the everyday people interviewed for a Post report on how 1 in 3 Americans believe that violence against the government can be justified. Redding told The Post that the Jan. 6 insurrectionists stormed the Capitol seeking to “subvert American democracy because now it’s becoming equal for all people.” He spoke approvingly of arming himself and added, “I’m a Black man in America. … I believe in protecting myself.” Notice he’s not protecting himself against the government. He’s protecting himself against “crazy” White people.
When it comes to Black folks acquiring weapons, Redding is in the minority. According to that Post-Ipsos poll, 51 percent of African Americans said they have not considered buying a gun since the Buffalo massacre. Why is no mystery. The right to self-protection, let alone the right to bear arms, doesn’t exactly apply to Black people.
Think about it. Imagine I get a gun for self-protection (not that I ever would, but stay with me). A situation arises in which I use it to protect myself. But then the cops arrive, see a gun, “fear for their lives,” and, well, the rest writes itself. Remember Philando Castile? We can’t win.
So, no, I won’t be getting a gun. Ever. But would I actually leave the country for my own protection? It’s a question many people of color have been pondering the past several years. Writing about the subject in his latest column for the Daily Beast, Wajahat Ali bluntly asks, “Is it time to leave?”
It’s not just race, either. The SPLC report notes a correlation between the obsession with ethnic “replacement” and a fixation on gender identity. And look: More than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed this year alone, many of them targeting trans children and their families. This is not to mention the threat to abortion access or to other rights (such as my marriage) that could fall like dominoes.
Sure, we can vote and organize, and change hearts and minds and all that. And we must! But I don’t blame us marginalized people for being scared. The warnings of a potential loss of freedom, liberty and life are omnipresent and unrelenting, like being in the middle of Times Square with every sign flashing “You in danger!”
And it’s all because the number of “crazy” White people in America fearing “replacement” appears to be growing — and they seem ready to do whatever it takes to stay at the pinnacle of American life.
I’m not sure they will succeed in getting me to leave my country. But “Operation von Trapp” is ready. “Crazy” White people are not to be trifled with."