By Vernon Williams
It is probably one of the last things anyone wants to hear but you can’t ignore the elephant in the room. The dread of a race war in America is no longer a harrowing threat. It’s here.
It was never realistic to conceive that it would happen in the literal sense. That would require boundaries and concise delineation of sides – beyond pigmentation. That’s virtually impossible.
There are no foxholes and trenches, no militarized vehicles invading neighborhoods, no building top snipers or mind fields, no air raids or attacks at sea.
This war is similar to the tension between democracy and communism in the ‘50s and ‘60s. The weaponry is incendiary rhetoric as well as covert and overt systemic racism.
In other words, the race war of the new millennium is a cold war. Declared in the waning patriotism inspired by 9-11, the war intensified during the Obama administration and reached a fever pitch under the Trump Administration.
Unthinkable behaviors have become commonplace, accepted, expected. The “Karen” generation that allows everyday behavior by Black Americans to be targeted, the endless police brutality and slayings with impunity spell race war.
That teachers in Wisconsin deemed it appropriate in an integrated class to devise a lesson plan in which white students were assigned to determine appropriate punishment for disobedient slaves is unfathomable.
Closer to home, just last week the Indiana Legislative Caucus found itself not only verbally abused by white lawmakers but faced with fisticuffs in contempt for exertion of Black positions.
It is intolerable that veteran representatives Greg Porter of Indianapolis and Vernon G. Smith of Gary would be booed, ridiculed and subsequently threatened in the heat of legislative debate.
The bill in question would, in effect, contribute to the segregation of South Bend schools, allowing critical and needed tax dollars to follow the exit of white students from urban to suburban schools across district lines.
The discussion turned the traditionally stoic atmosphere of the Indiana General Assembly into the climate of World Federation Wrestling or any other informal, chaotic event.
Prior to that confrontation, Black lawmakers complained that it was virtually impossible to get their bills advanced to committee or on the floor of the Republican controlled House and Senate.
Representative Smith complained that a colleague confronted him in a restroom in a boisterous, harassing, and intimidating manner. Smith said as he left, the lawmaker followed him, shouting from behind.
That is unacceptable. There must be accountability and order.
The January 6 insurrection at the Capitol in Washington D.C. and subsequent racial aggressions in state legislatures around the nation is manifestation of an intensifying “cold” race war.
For the past five years, white nationalism, Nazism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism and racial bigotry have moved from the back burner to the forefront. Ignoring it won’t make it go away, no matter how unpleasant such conversations may be.
The Pennsylvania legislature initially refused to seat duly-elected lawmakers from Philadelphia and Scranton for three days. The lone Black representative in the Maine legislature resigned under pressure.
Because of death threats in Michigan, where the Democratic governor was targeted for kidnapping and possible assassination, Black legislators in that state require additional security.
It wasn’t that long ago that State Senator Eddie Melton was disrespected and threatened by overly aggressive police officers while leading a group of protestors in Indianapolis.
There are reports that some 70 Indiana legislators approach their duties at the Statehouse armed. They are considering legislation to allow Hoosier residents to own and carry weapons without a permit. How is this anything but acts of warfare?
The Black caucus is vocal in its opposition to publicly maintaining the status quo during these turbulent political times. They are right. What is occurring that is wrong must be addressed and sufficiently remedied.
A plan to promote an Indiana boycott may not be out of the question. But March Madness is too soon and expansive to tackle as the first objective of protest. Planning is everything and publicity surrounding these racial conflicts in the Indiana General Assembly has been minimal.
First, there should be a public awareness campaign. Garner the facts and engage Black journalists to help tell the story. Appeal to African American churches, business and civic leaders, municipal and county elected officials, educators, every sector of the community.
The capacity to make laws sensitive to our community is paramount. After awareness, construct a strategy that is action-oriented and not just talk. Finally, implement with a plan for accountability and consequences.
What is occurring in the General Assembly must be addressed forcefully in a timely manner by a broad swatch of our community. The last thing we want is for any form of cold war to ignite into more.
Let’s take the racial climate in the General Assembly seriously.