The Burning Cross – Dred Feminist Rant #13 – September 7, 2018 – Loretta J. Ross
I love it when white supremacists inadvertently out themselves. During anti-abortion protests in Washington, DC, they sometimes plant crosses to symbolize the fetuses they purportedly mourn. When I first saw these crosses in the 1990s, I quipped then they should simply set them on fire to come out of the closet. Now white supremacists are burning their Nikes to rail against Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful take-a-knee protests against police brutality.
What’s with these good old folks? The symbol of the burning cross is never far from their subconsciousness. They are never as subtle as they think they are, and we are never as naïve as they wish we were. Their symbolism is for simpletons.
Why do I call them all white supremacists? Because I no more believe that anti-abortionists care about unborn children than I think that these NFL defenders are simply patriotic. What both groups have in common is the white supremacist conviction they have the right – nay the obligation – to dominate other peoples’ lives and tell them what to think and believe, as long as it maintains white male control over America. Some people prefer the more euphemistic terms “white nationalists” or “white privilege.” I prefer to be more direct because they are experts in hiding white supremacist convictions behind misdirection and obfuscation. White supremacy is their ideology; white privilege is their practice.
Anti-abortion Congressman Steve King blurted an inconvenient truth out when he let slip, “We can’t restore our civilization with other peoples’ babies!” He understands that the inevitable demographics of the 21st century are dooming straight, white men to political, economic, and social obsolescence as America becomes browner, queerer, more intersectional, and less Christian.
As a reproductive justice and human rights activist, I’ve long understood that superficially race-neutral laws outlawing abortion and restricting birth control really target white women, trying to compel them to have more babies for the white revolution. These laws are working: the only demographic group experiencing an increase in teen pregnancy are young white, ultra-religious girls.
I never believed these anti-sex zealots cared about brown and black babies because these same people endorse harming or killing our people endlessly once they are born to support the white supremacist project of eliminating all economic and political competitors. There are too many ways this is evident to itemize for this brief blog but I must at least mention poisoned water sources and toxic neighborhoods, under-funded schools with fast-tracked pipelines to prisons, tax policies that only favor the privileged, regulations that make Indigenous people reproductively disappear, separating babies from their immigrant parents at borders, etc. This is white supremacy moving from ideology to legislation to practice and it happens every day without most of white America offering any resistance. These are crimes that happen in full view, not hidden from our notice.
And this brings us to the Kaepernick protests and the Nike ad. Kaepernick started taking a knee to protest the unlawful and unpunished killing of people of color by cops and vigilantes, pointing out the hypocrisy and injustices of America that has always had a racialized way of deciding who lives and dies. Hell, even the way crimes are defined are often racist. Using his First Amendment right to peacefully demonstrate his opinions, one might have thought this would arouse fierce patriotic defense of the First Amendment, the way people on the right and the left leap to defend white supremacists who use it as a shield to attack vulnerable people. One would be mistaken.
The NFL has always been a plantation system. I worked for the NFL Players Association in the 1970s when the players went on strike to obtain control over their “likenesses” – the right to market their own names and photos. They had to strike because the league owners believed that if a player signed an NFL contract, the team owner not only controlled what happened on the field, but whether that player could profit from their own name and photographs. The players' union won that battle and have always had to fight to at least modify the plantation-lite system called the National Football League.
Now we have league owners like Jerry Jones promising to fire any player who does not fall into lockstep with his definition of America’s white supremacy. Admittedly, I’m a lifelong Cowboys fan (can’t help it – I was born in Texas!), and I’ve endured their embedded racism and hyper-patriotism as “America’s Team” while recognizing that moniker for the irony it is. And I probably got the job at the NFLPA as their first black staff member because of my race and gender and my deep love for bloody contact sports. The league was 60% black yet the union had yet to hire its first black staff person in 1975. I admit it – Muhammed Ali turned me onto boxing and the transgressive behavior of Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders was always a source of glee to those of us who understood the financial politics of sports capitalism.
I know this makes my feminist friends shake their heads in wonder, but I don’t believe I’m the only feminist who loves football, basketball, and tennis. Hell, I can even watch golf if Tiger’s winning! And hockey and soccer are slowly wooing me over. These are my contradictions I freely and openly confess because I get to define what type of feminist I am. But that’s another blog.
My point is that white supremacists are on the run. They are getting more and more exposed for the nefarious views they hold and the ways they try to disguise them. Beckys Beware! Trump is the Pandora’s box of politics – Republicans thought they’d use him and he ended up destroying not only their party, but white solidarity as a whole. Most white people are repulsed by his crony capitalism, corruption, and basic incompetence at being a decent human being.
The term “ratchet” is usually used to describe someone with problematic tendencies: loud-mouths, questionable dressers, people not in control of their baser impulses. People often associate these qualities with poor people. I had to let some middle-class white professors know that in my eyes, Trump is “rich ratchet”: clueless, tasteless, boorish, selfish, and apparently as small-mindedly petty as his small hands indicate.
I’m calling those stupid enough to burn their own Nike products and call for an ineffective boycott ratchet too. They are making Kaepernick’s point for him and amplifying his integrity. They foolishly think we can’t recognize a burning cross when we see it.