Understanding Escalating White Nationalist Violence

With Biden’s inauguration tomorrow and the threat of far right violence, we know the events of the past couple weeks are a lot to understand and make sense of. We are still making sense of them ourselves. That said, we believe there are some important interventions that we can make to strengthen movements for collective liberation:

  1. This is us and it’s what we do in the world

What we saw at the Capitol is exactly who we are, an extension of a nation founded on white supremacist violence and genocide. The history of angry white mobs is as old as the history of this country. Whenever Black movements have built power, there has been a grassroots racist backlash fomented by the government. This is not a departure from US history. For over a century, the US has orchestrated coups in dozens of countries around the world. It should come as no surprise that this government should be subject to the kind of violence we saw on January 6.

Learn More: Lindsay Crouse, Adam Westbrook and Sanya Dosani, “Stop Pretending ‘This is Not Who We Are’” ; Overthrow: 100 Years of US Meddling and Regime Change

  1. This is not a primarily working class movement 

The people in the Capitol were people who could take off on a Wednesday and fly across the country. They were small business owners and off duty police and military. This doesn’t mean that there were no working class participants, but we need to reject the blaming of working class people as the standard bearers of white supremacy. Falsely scapegoating working class white people for white nationalism undermines our ability to build the BIPOC-led multiracial working class movements we need to defeat racial capitalism. White supremacy cuts across all classes, but we need to be clear about who has the most at stake in maintaining this system.

Learn More: Will Bunch, “An Insurrection of Upper Middle Class White People” ; Vanessa Wills on Twitter

  1. We must recognize the danger of state repression blowback

The growth of fascism is a tremendous danger. The people who instigated and perpetrated this attack need to face consequences. However, we need to steer clear of mobilizing the language of domestic terrorism in ways that will increase the power of the government to repress BIPOC communities’ demands for justice. Domestic terrorism laws are already being moved within days of the Capitol siege and will quickly be used to criminalize our movements.

We also need to refuse to cooperate with the FBI and other law enforcement officials whose primary targets continue to be BIPOC communities. If the FBI contacts you, don’t talk. Call the National Lawyers’ Guild’s Federal Repression Hotline: (212) 679-2811. [Bay Area number: (415) 285-1041].

Learn More: Tarso Ramos, Resisting the Marathon of Fear (from 2013 after the bombing at the Boston Marathon)

  1. Check on your people, get organized, and defend peoples’ right to community safety

We are moved by this call from Ejeris Dixon to take stock of our individual and collective needs in this moment, both for responding to the traumatic times we’re living through, and for continuing to organize and build the movements we need to survive and defeat this growing, violent fascist threat. At Catalyst, we’re checking in on each other and on our people, and we’re engaging in discussion to better understand this moment and what it means for our organizing moving forward.

Learn More: Ejeris Dixon, “In the Face of Far Right Violence, We Must Organize to Survive”

As they often do, our conversations are highlighting contradictions about this moment. While some contradictions, you try to resolve, others you have to wrestle with and move within. Here are some of the key tensions we are struggling with right now:

  • This is deeply rooted in US history AND it’s a critical moment to understand and leverage.
  • The US has never been a true multi-racial democracy AND we can’t allow openly fascist movements to gain more power and legitimacy.
  • We need to demand accountability AND we need to be real about who increased state repression will land on and reject solutions that will further criminalize BIPOC communities.
  • We need to build the biggest front against fascism and further drive the wedge into the far right AND we need to push real solutions that will meet people’s needs, knowing that neoliberal capitalism will never meet people’s needs.
  • We need to make big, clear demands on the state to meet human needs AND we need to build our capacity to take care of each other without relying on the state.
  • White nationalist street-level fascism is NOT primarily a white working class movement AND we need to help break white working class people off from white supremacy.


Broken Windows Fascism

Georgia Shows the Way, DC Shows the Stakes

Mike Davis, “Riot on the Hill”

Frontline, On the Frontline: Meeting the Moment – with Barbara Ransby, Thnjiwe McHarris, Pam Campos-Palma, Tarso Ramos, Monifa Bandele and Vahisha Hasan

White Backlash: Why It Happens and How We Fight Back – SURJ Webinar featuring Robin D.G. Kelley

In this intense week of presidential transition, we encourage you to check on your people and we hope that everyone stays safe in the face of the threat of escalated white nationalist violence.