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The State of Dis-union

D. Ben Knoble and Savannah Newton on 11 Jan 2021 in Blog

While Ben has other articles planned for upcoming technical topics, we feel that now, in the wake of the January 6th terrorist attack on the US Capitol by US citizens, is a time for reflection on a scary political landscape and a time for the explicit condemnation of white supremacy.

On the attack

While there have been many actions in the last 4 years that threatened the safety of Americans, this was the most personal for us. We don’t wish to invalidate the experiences of others.

Wednesday morning, we were shocked, scared, and frustrated by the breaking news that Americans had breached the US Capitol, seat of the US government and symbol of the shifting presidency.

While we acknowledge the extreme polarization of the United States, we never imagined that a sitting President could actively incite such extreme violence. Worse, before the 2020 election, we never believed that election results could come under such intense and baseless accusations of fraud. We certainly never imagined that such accusations (a) would come from the President and (b) would lead to such unrest.

We feel called to actively condemn

On the response to the attack

The response to this attack blatantly displayed the white privilege enjoyed by rioters. The increased surge of Black Lives Matter protesters this summer saw the peace of demonstrators meet with violent suppression from multiple parties, including the police and extremists. In contrast, the response to what can only be called a terrorist attack on January 6th overwhelmingly appears to lack appropriate action. Whereas one group is met with unnecessary aggression, another is met with none of the expected.

We are shocked and outraged by the response to this attack. We would regret any loss of life for any reason, but we do believe in the responsibility of law enforcement to secure the safety of our nation’s government.

We cannot remain too surprised, however, for America as a nation has always valued the lives of its white citizens over those of its people of color counterparts.

On our stance as privileged white citizens

We recognize that from the first our reactions are informed by our unique cultural, social, political, and spatiotemporal identities. This necessarily includes our whiteness. In even writing that this has been the “most personal” feeling threat to us, we are forced to concede that many other events have likely felt far more personal to those whom we wish to support.

We recognize that discussions of race often make white people uncomfortable; this includes ourselves. We are actively working to normalize these conversations between ourselves and within our friend groups. We believe that this a way toward better communication and mutual trust.

Now more than ever, acting as a white ally for people of color requires actively condemning attempts to silence their voices, suppress their rights, or subjugate their bodies. It is not enough that we remain silent behind the front lines; nor is it right that we speak for others. It is time to lift our voices in support of theirs and to glorify their right to those voices.

We recognize that this requires much learning. Savannah, as a Sociology major and Social & Economic Justice minor, and her many teachers, professors and practitioners, are a testament to the wealth of resources available to educate us. With that in mind, as we embark on a renewed journey of empathy and understanding, we would like to leave a list of suggested books for the interested.

Suggested reading from Savannah


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