The Worst of Us

When the Department of Homeland Security released its Homeland Threat Assessment report in October the top threat it identified wasn’t foreign terrorism or Antifa or Black Lives Matter.

It was white supremacy.

Then-acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in the 25-page report that “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists — specifically white supremacist extremists — will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.”

2019 was the deadliest year for domestic terrorism since 1995, the year of the Oklahoma City bombing. According to DHS data for 2018 and 2019, white supremacist extremists were responsible for half of all terror attacks in the U.S. and a vast majority of the resulting deaths (39 of 48 deaths; 81%).

“[White Supremacist Extremists] have demonstrated longstanding intent to target racial and religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, politicians, and those they believe promote multi-culturalism and globalization at the expense of the [White Supremacist Extremists] identity,” Wolf said. “Since 2018, they have conducted more lethal attacks in the United States than any other [Domestic Violent Extremists] movement.”

The warning has been a familiar refrain among law enforcement agencies and think tanks alike for years.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee in September “the top threat we face from domestic violent extremists stems from those we identify as racially/ethnically motivated violent extremists.”

“[Racially/ethnically motivated violent extremists] were the primary source of ideologically motivated lethal incidents and violence in 2018 and 2019 and have been considered the most lethal of all domestic extremists since 2001,” Wray told the committee.

The Center for Strategic & International Studies found white supremacists “and other like-minded extremists” were responsible for 67 percent of terrorist plots and attacks in 2020.

“They used vehicles, explosives, and firearms as their predominant weapons and targeted demonstrators and other individuals because of their racial, ethnic, religious, or political makeup — such as African Americans, immigrants, Muslims, and Jews,” the CSIS report states.

Jan. 6 was just the latest in a long line of dark days over the last several years (the Charleston AME church shooting, Charlottesville, Tree of Life synagogue shooting, El Paso mass shooting) where we’ve seen white supremacy and violent, right-wing extremism rear their ugly heads.

But it shouldn’t have been a surprise to us. We have seen the warning signs. 

We continue to learn more every day about the Americans who stormed our Capitol. What may be most terrifying is most were more than likely not tied directly to one of these groups, but as Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told WBUR’s Here & Now last week, “a lot of average Joes and Janes” came to our nation’s capital and were incited to riot.

“They became extremists that day,” he said.

Still, we know a great deal about the driving forces behind the Capitol riot.

Among the thousands who violently stormed and overtook the U.S. Capitol were a motley crew of violent, extremist, militant and white supremacy groups and organizations who have all found a champion and advocate in President Donald Trump. The same ones the FBI, DHS and other organizations have told us about for years.

The Anti-Defamation League, ProPublica, PBS FRONTLINE, The Associated Press and other media outlets have identified members, flags, insignia and regalia associated with several extremist and white supremacy groups, including the Three Percenters, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Groyper Army, New Jersey European Heritage Association and the Neo Nazi National Socialist Club.

These were not patriots. These were not protestors with legitimate issues.

These were rioters. These were insurgents. These were racists. These were terrorists.

These were the worst of us.

Three Percenters

A Three Percenters flag (left) photographed outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Stephanie Keith/Reuters

The Three Percenters “have a track record of criminal activity ranging from weapons violations to terrorist plots and attacks,” according to the Anti-Defamation League, which identifies the group as an anti-government, extremist organization.

Three Percenters was founded in 2008 and until the election of Donald Trump focused much of its efforts on the federal government. Since then, its ire has shifted to Muslim and immigrant communities and it has carried out violent attacks upon those groups, as well as others.

Six separate incidents since 2015 have resulted in several arrests, charges and guilty pleas. The most recent in May 2020 when Christian Stanley Ferguson was arrested “for an attempted plot to ambush and kidnap law enforcement officers responding to a false distress call,” according to a Department of Justice press release.

In online postings, the DOJ said “[Ferguson] reaffirmed his plan to ambush law enforcement, kill them, rob them of their weapons, and start an uprising.”

Other incidents included a mosque bombing in Minnesota in 2017 — meant to scare Muslims into leaving the country — as well as plots to bomb a bank in downtown Oklahoma City in 2017 and an apartment complex for Muslim immigrants in Kansas in 2016.

Proud Boys

The Proud Boys prides itself on being what it calls “western chauvinists” and a “pro-western fraternity,” but its actions “bear many of the hallmarks of a gang, and its members have taken part in multiple acts of brutal violence and intimidation,” the ADL website states.

“While the Proud Boys insist that they only act in self-defense, several incidents ­—including one in which two members of the group were convicted of attempted gang assault, attempted assault and riot— belie their self-professed peaceful nature,” continues the ADL site. “Indeed, many members have criminal records for violent behavior and the organization actively pursues violence against their perceived enemies.”

The group was founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, a darling of the far-right and self-described Islamophobic. Now, it is run by Enrique Tarrio, who was arrested and charged recently for his alleged involvement in the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner that hung from a historically Black church in Washington D.C.

“People affiliated with the Proud Boys have made misogynistic comments, including support for rape, and have espoused anti-homosexual, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration views on social media,” a recent Wall Street Journal article on the group stated.

The ADL classifies the Proud Boys as Islamaphobic, transphobic and anti-immigrant.

Tarrio, who is Cuban American, vehemently denies the group supports white supremacy; however, anti-hate organizations have shown its members engage with white supremacy groups and espouse white supremacist phrases and slogans.

“McInnes himself has ties to the racist right and has contributed to hate sites like and American Renaissance, both of which publish the work of white supremacists and so-called ‘race realists,’” according to the Souther Poverty Law Center.

McInnes “reluctantly” left Proud Boys in 2018 after group members were involved in a fight with Antifa supporters outside the Metropolitan Republic Club in Manhattan where McInnes had just spoken. The Proud Boys reportedly fought beside members of the 211 Bootboys, a New York City-based white supremacist gang. Two Proud Boys were convicted for their involvement.

“I do all this reluctantly because I still see this as the greatest fraternal organization in the world but rumors and lies and terrible journalism has made its way to the court system,” McInnes was quoted as saying in a YouTube video that has been removed.

In 2019, Proud Boys members from Denver marched with Patriot Front, a white supremacist group based out of Texas.

Proud Boys were also present at the 2017 United the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Jason Kessler, a white nationalist, was the rally’s organizer and was reportedly a member of the Proud Boys at the time.

According to SPLC, Kessler was a guest on McInnes’s show a couple of months before the 2017 rally and stated during the interview, “What’s really under attack is if you say, ‘I want to stand up for white people. I want to stand up for western civilization. I want to stand up for men. I want to stand up for Christians.’”

Kessler was expelled from the group by McInnes after the Charlottesville rally and his white supremacist views became public.

Last year, The New York Times reported the Proud Boys have levels of memberships and it was at one time directly tied to violent acts carried out by the members.

Violence is built into the group’s very DNA. There are four levels of membership, starting with saying the pro-Western creed aloud, then moving higher to a Proud Boys tattoo. The highest level was once reserved for those who engage in violence on the group’s behalf.

The New York Times

During the first presidential debate, President Donald Trump was asked to denounce Proud Boys for its actions at Black Lives Matters protests in 2020, but instead responded by telling the group to “stand back and stand by.”

Oath Keepers

Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, photographed outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Ford Fischer/PBS FRONTLINE

The Oath Keepers calls itself the “Guardians of the Republic.”

It is reported to have “tens of thousands” of members who are current and former law enforcement and military veterans and is “one of the largest radical anti-government groups in the U.S. today” and is “based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans,” according to the SPLC.

While the group accepts all members, the ADL says what separates it from others is its recruitment of law enforcement and military members.

The Associated Press reviewed video of the riot and discovered “the group marching up the steps to help breach the Capitol shows they wore military-style patches that read ‘MILITIA’ and ‘OATHKEEPER.’ Others were wearing patches and insignias representing far-right militant groups, including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and various self-styled state militias.”

As President Donald Trump’s supporters massed outside the Capitol last week and sang the national anthem, a line of men wearing olive-drab helmets and body armor trudged purposefully up the marble stairs in a single-file line, each man holding the jacket collar of the one ahead.

The formation, known as “Ranger File,” is standard operating procedure for a combat team that is “stacking up” to breach a building — instantly recognizable to any U.S. soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a chilling sign that many at the vanguard of the mob that stormed the seat of American democracy either had military training or were trained by those who did.

The Associated Press

“The Oath Keepers have been particularly active in 2020, participating in various anti-lockdown protests, providing vigilante-style ‘security’ for local communities and businesses during the Black Lives Matter protests that spread in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, and warning about a potential takeover by the ‘Marxist left’ during the 2020 election,” the ADL website states.

Oath Keepers members have been arrested and charged for violations such as “firearms violations, conspiracy to impede federal workers, possession of explosives, and threatening public officials.”

Other Groups and Individuals

In addition ones mentioned above, several other groups and individuals have been identified through social media and photographs as being present at the riot.

This includes followers of the Groyper Army, “a loose network of alt right figures who are vocal supporters of white supremacist and America First podcaster Nick Fuentes,” according to the ADL.

Fuentes was spotted at the riot, but stated he did not go inside the Capitol. In the days before the riot, Fuentes jokingly encouraged his followers to kill state legislators. ProPublica and PBS FRONTLINE had this to say about Fuentes’ belief system:

Fuentes, who marched in Charlottesville during the 2017 white power rally there, speaks frequently in anti-Semitic terms and pontificates on the need to protect America’s white heritage from the ongoing shift in the nation’s demographics. He has publicly denied believing in white nationalism but has said that he considers himself a “white majoritarian.”


The ADL describes the Groyper Army as a “white supremacist group that presents its ideology as more nuanced than other groups in the white supremacist sphere. While the group and leadership’s views align with those held by the white supremacist alt-right, groypers attempt to normalize their ideology by aligning themselves with ‘Christianity’ and ‘traditional’ values ostensibly championed by the church, including marriage and family.”

Another extremist spotted was Vincent James Foxx, a Holocaust denier who runs the site The Red Elephants which is known for its white supremacist and anti-Semitic views.

Insurrection: Through the Eyes of Black America

Jan. 6, 2021, will be remembered as one of the darkest days in the history of our republic.

A nearly exclusive group of white anarchists, insurrectionists and domestic terrorists came by the hundreds to attack and overrun police, occupy the U.S. Capitol building and ransack it. It was the first time in more than 200 years our Capitol had been breached.

Five people died as a result of the violence, including a U.S. Capitol policeman who was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. Pipe bombs were found at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee along with a vehicle filled with guns and ammunition near the RNC.

In the weeks leading up to the insurrection, the president and federal lawmakers encouraged the would-be attackers and empathized with them. They fanned the flames of conspiracies about a stolen election that drove them to commit acts of sedition and treason in our nation’s capital.

“We love you,” the president said to the anarchists as they occupied our Capitol. “You’re very special.”

The day cut especially deep for Black Americans who watched last year as Black Lives Matter protests were called detestable and un-American; its participants called thugs as the president and members of Congress called for them to be met with violence and military force.

Here’s what it felt like to some of them.

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

I cried. A lot to be honest. It made me feel really small. I’ve had to read comments in the past condemning Black people for kneeling during the anthem, they condemned Black people for protesting in the streets, Black people were called thugs and savages and terrorists when businesses were broken into during protests. All of those people were silent today.

If those “protestors” were BLM protesters, they would’ve been met with police in full riot gear. They wouldn’t have even made it on the steps without rubber bullets, tear gas and violence. The people that broke into our Capitol felt like they owned the place and honestly, they walked right in leaving me to think that they really do. It left me feeling broken, defeated and scared. Especially seeing pictures of a noose and Confederate flags in the halls of our U.S. Capitol.

It was a message.

Bridget Hicks
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Honestly, it made me feel disgusted to be an American. We made it look easy for our foreign enemies to come on our homeland and attack if they wanted to do it.

The president’s comments were not sincere. It felt like he didn’t care about what was going on because it was about him and the people wanting him to remain president. What transpired just blew my mind, allowing protesters and rioters into the U.S. Capitol and nothing was done at all. It really looked like an inside job, how they just took over the way they did. It looked like a movie that you see where they invade the White House, but this time it was the Capitol.

If it was us, things would not be handled as peaceful as it was.

Jasmine Turner
Win McNamee/Getty

I started today feeling proud and hopeful. It was great to read about Raphael Warnock’s historic win and being reminded of the incredible work of Stacey Abrams.

I haven’t found the words to express how I initially felt but it translated to overwhelming grief. So-called patriots attacked our democracy and flagrantly disrespected our nation’s Capitol. Their actions were nothing short of treason but they live to tell about it with big, goofy smiles because they were white. The audacity is infuriating.

Meanwhile, I’m having conversations with my adult-sized, 12-year-old about how to carry himself to make people less suspicious of him.

The question has been brought up over and over again. And it repeated in my mind as well: What if they were Black? It’s rhetorical, of course, because we all know the answer. But this is arguably the most massive, clear and public demonstration of the double standard in recent history.

Racism is a cancer. And America has long ignored the symptoms and skipped its screenings. Today we learned that it’s metastasized. We can’t keep pretending that “this isn’t who we are.”

I believe we can and will be better. We start by swiftly removing this incompetent “leader” who encouraged hate, indecency, and now treason.

Katrina Dupins
Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty

Today was a wild one. It felt like a movie or something. Has the White House or U.S. Capitol been taken like that since the War of 1812?

We started the day with Trump supportive of everything going on. Then, he gave a questionable speech telling people to go home. All the while, we didn’t hear these people called any of the things the BLM protesters were being called.

Trump said these people were mad about how they had been treated for the last four years and were cheated out of an election. What about the last 400 years people were treated bad? When these people stand up like this, it’s unacceptable.

I feel 100-percent, whole heartedly, that if these people who took the Capitol were people of color, there would have been a lot of killing. They would have never let it happen like that. It’s a shame that people still don’t see the privilege of color in this country.

Where are the Kyles at protecting that federal government building?

Wayne Dickerson
Erin Schaff/The New York Times

What we saw yesterday was the culmination of fear-mongering and hate that the president has fueled. It is what scholars, military leaders, and lifetime civil servants warned was possible when we embrace so-called “alternate facts” and bald-faced lies as truth while rejecting facts and science.

This happened because too many in our nation have ignored the realities of our past and our present, and have instead clung to an illusion of our past which maintains historic inequalities. Many of my high school classmates tell me that there is no such thing as “white privilege.”

To them, I respond…

White privilege is believing that insurrection and sedition — because you don’t get what you want — is patriotism. White privilege is being able to storm your nation’s sacred halls and still be called a protester, instead of a thug or terrorist. White privilege is being involved in an insurrection against your nation during the afternoon, being walked down the Capitol steps which you stormed, not in handcuffs but walking hand-in-hand with those who swore to protect our constitution with their lives. White privilege is being thanked for that insurrection by the nation’s president. White privilege is being allowed to drive home from said insurrection in your own car, sleep in your own bed, and watch yourself on late-night news without a worry in the world. White privilege is having the police run from you during an insurrection instead of defending their posts. White privilege is having elected officials blame your seditious acts, which were all recorded on video, on Black Lives Matter the following day.

There is no doubt in my mind that had the “protesters” been Black that there would have been a massacre yesterday! 

Brian K. Mitchell, historian and author
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Black, Indigenous, and other people of color have never been able to claim that this country belongs to us. That this democracy was built for us. That we will “take our country back” or “make America great again.” Black Americans have never been able to protest as a means to take back something we believed was stolen from us. Black Americans have had to protest because we never had it in the first place.

White supremacy has led folks to believe that only white people can determine who is free. Who can own property. Who can vote. Who can go to school. Who can buy a house. Who is a patriot. Who is a Christian. Whose lives matter. Whose votes matter.

White supremacy will shift itself and convince folks that it’s not about race. Because white supremacy can’t be defeated if it isn’t named.

It’s past time to name it.

Adena White
Reuters/Ahmed Gaber

What happened in the nation’s capital was nothing short of an eye opener and living proof that we as African-Americans — other minorities — and white Americans indeed live in two different Americas. After a day like this, where our Capitol is breached by white supremacists, white rioters and white terrorist groups, there is no way that anyone can deny that there, in fact, is a such thing as white privilege.

Myself, as well as many other African-Americans, who protested for change, the BLM movement, police brutality and systemic inequality had to sit and watch as white rioters climbed walls, broke windows, threw pipe bombs and vandalized the Capitol with little to no resistance from government officials, police, secret service or the Department of Defense. The DOD put out a statement in regards to how they were not going to intervene with military troops and that U.S. Capitol police can handle the situation. The police were caught on camera taking selfies with rioters who breached the Capitol.

When I see images and statements like that after how they treated us just a few months ago, it makes me sick. We were killed, profiled, gassed, beat, called thugs, were told that we were privileged to be living in America, called ungrateful, were given every excuse as to why any Black person in history who was killed by a cop had a logical reason as to why they died, we were arrested for peaceful protests, we were attacked by white supremacists. The list goes on.

The BLM movement, the movement for social injustice and the movement to end police brutality all stood for something.

Colin Kaepernick taking a knee was considered unconstitutional, the “hands up don’t shoot” campaign was ridiculed, NBA players using their social platforms and refusing to play was met with calls to “shut up & dribble.”

The riot from Trump supporters and white supremacy groups that took place had no foundation to stand on. White America was not protesting for injustice or inequality. They were mad about what our nation has stood on for centuries: democracy. They were simply mad.

The clear difference between the two movements are the motives. One is based on change for systemic equality and the other is based on grown adults upset because a president they support is not getting a second term after losing a fair election. That’s a big difference.

Yet, the events that took place at the Capitol have been somewhat swept under the rug. The media coverage around it is mild at best, social media has dropped it for the most part, & the white Americans who do think it was a disgrace, but are also Trump supporters, are being very quiet.

So, how do I feel?

I feel let down again by a system that clearly was not built for us. I feel our country is now the laughing stock of the world. I continue to feel unsafe in white America. I laughed and made jokes on social media about the situation, but in a sense, it was to mask the pain that I felt for my people who were on the front lines protesting for our equality who lost their lives or loved ones and had to watch the red carpet be rolled out for the rioters a the Capitol.

But this is nothing new to us. This is the America we’ve been living in since our ancestors were brought over on ships. This is the America that pushed the indigenous people out and stole their land and named it the United States. This is the America that was built on the backs of my ancestors but yet we have no place in it unless we can shoot a basketball, run a football, rap, or make the latest TikTok dance for white entertainment. This is the America we’re used to. The only difference is y’all are not fighting Black America anymore. Now, y’all fighting each other!

This is America.

Mike Askew
Reuters/Ahmed Gaber

I’m really struggling to put my thoughts and feelings into words. While I’m shocked, I’m not surprised. The rhetoric of people like Donald Trump fanned the flame under what was already brewing, and he went unchecked until the ninth inning. What happened Wednesday isn’t even the worst thing we’ve been through as a nation, but it confirmed what the world already thought of us. The fact that homegrown terrorists could attack a heavily guarded building, just shows how real privilege is in this country. This wasn’t a surprise attack. Authorities had notice. Still, nothing was done. Organizations like Black Lives Matter can organize a peaceful protest and be met with military force. The goal in our country has never been equity or equality. The goal is to give a “little something” away so marginalized groups feel like they’re making progress, all the while knowing that it’ll be shut down the moment those groups push for more.

For those still confused about white privilege, here it is.

White America allowed a young Black woman to be gun downed in her home while sleeping! She still has yet to receive justice! I’m sorry, Breonna Taylor.

White America let a white man from Arkansas break into Nancy Pelosi’s office and take mail without so much as a bullet in his direction.

White America has sat back while little Black boys are murdered by police for playing with toy guns. Somehow, these trained professionals “feared for their lives.” I’m sorry, Tamir Rice.

White America didn’t think it scary when those white men and women stormed the Capitol with real guns. Nope. Instead, they took selfies with and removed barriers for those people. I haven’t read too many articles yet, but have they called them terrorists yet? That’s what they are.

White America has witnessed the events that took place Wednesday and felt shock and horror and the disrespect shown to their nation. For once, they were offended by the Confederate flag being flown. Black America has always been offended. For once, white America was appalled by the noose hanging on Capitol grounds. Black America was appalled when it was hanging from trees in small southern towns with Black bodies attached to it.

Of course, I know there are individuals on both sides that have fought for everyone to have the same rights, access and responsibilities as those in white America. I recognize and am grateful for that. This is pent-up anger directed at anyone that has yet to see and acknowledge the disparities in this country. Am I angry that anyone would attack the Capitol? Absolutely! I’m more upset knowing that the outcome would have been drastically different if they were Black or brown, instead of white. 

Brittany Simmons

Racism in the South

White people tend to deal with racism in the abstract. We choose not to humanize those who bear its effects, because it’s too uncomfortable. 

It occurs. It’s horrible. It’s rare. That’s typically the extent to which we acknowledge it.

If we want things to change, we’ll need to do more. We’ll need to listen to uncomfortable stories and reflect on how we might be guilty of racist or bigoted thoughts, opinions or feelings and find ways to rid ourselves and society of it.

The first question I have asked every person I have interviewed for the blog is “What is the first racist experience you remember?”

Here are their stories.

“Go Home, Nigger”

I was about 14 years old. I was on vacation to see my grandparents who lived in Covington, Tennessee. 

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was out on a run and a red truck flew by, threw a beer can at me and said “Go home, nigger.”

I kept going on my run. I never forgot about it. That was the first time I was called that. I didn’t think about it again until 8 or 9 years ago when I moved here and started CoHO. Someone sent me a letter, called me a nigger and a bunch of other stuff. 

I was mentoring this group of guys at the time and I read it to the group to let them know some people want to carry silly ideas. I keep that in my book. 

I use it as fuel. 

I don’t get angry or try to say, “White people are this way, all of them.” I take it as an opportunity to say this is what some people believe. I take it as a chance to remind myself there are people out there who need some healing in their mind and heart and go from there. I try hard to understand this individual is more than what they’ve communicated to me. 

Given an opportunity to sit down with them — I’ve sat down with people with white supremacist leanings or some who are OK with the Confederacy in the South — I take it as an opportunity to listen to them and understand where they are coming from.

Phil Fletcher

“There’s Another Door, Nigger”

My mom worked for a company in Vilonia and I was going to work with her one day. We stopped at the Conoco in Vilonia and I walked in to pay for gas and some other stuff.

When you go in, there are double doors and there’s a guy leaned up against the door you would use to go out, and he was speaking to the cashier. Both of them were white. He was a biker and had his motorcycle outside.

I get what I need and check out, head to the door and I’m automatically thinking he’ll get out of the way. He looked at me and said, “There’s another door, nigger.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I’m originally from Brooklyn. We moved here when I was 10. New York to Arkansas is a different experience. I didn’t know what to say. 

I went out the other door and this rage came over me. I was a hothead. I turned around and kicked his motorcycle over. He came out and went crazy, my mom didn’t know what was happening, but she got out when I kicked the bike over.

The girl at the register said she was going to call the cops. Nothing happened, we just ended up leaving.

I knew I was black. 

It’s a lot to process, especially when you have friends of the other race. It makes you question a lot. It makes you question your friends you’ve known for years, question their parents and people they were raised around. 

There’s a lot that goes through your head. You don’t know who to trust, who not to trust. You question your worth.

I think I went through two or three weeks of not wanting to talk to white people at school. It’s tough at schools like Conway, because so many people are white. 

My most recent experience was around 2017. I had just moved back to Arkansas from Dallas and was living and working in Jonesboro. I was doing insurance adjusting at the time and worked in an office with about 10 white guys. 

We went to lunch one day at Larry’s Pizza. I remember I had a blazer and a tie on. We drove company cars there and I drove mine. All of them were different colors and mine was white.

We went in to eat and there was a table of all white guys who I could tell were looking at me, but I didn’t think anything of it.

We finish our food, pay and go outside and I have a note on my window and it says, “Know your place, nigger.”

I didn’t do anything. I walked in the restaurant and ate. I didn’t look at them sideways, I didn’t speak to anyone and that note was on my window.

You become used to it. It’s not that you don’t get mad every time or feel a way about it, but — and I’ve only had a few real-deal ones — you learn to put it in the back of your head and move on. You notate it, I have to get back on my guard again. It makes you build up a wall against white people, again. 

One of my best friends is a white guy. That’s my brother. It was one of my first friends coming here. It sucks because I know there are good white people, but when you encounter someone like that, you get to questioning everyone. 

Mike Askew

“Go Back to Africa, Blacks Don’t Play This”

I was probably 6 or 7 years old and was playing peewee baseball. I’m from Crossett and as a young kid, sports is one of the only things you have to do. 

I was never fond of baseball at an early age, but I was playing and it was my first game. One of the white kids said, “Go back to Africa, Blacks don’t play this.”

I didn’t fully understand it. You know, you’re there to make friends in a cohesive environment. I blew it off. 

Jimmy Warren

“Why Does It Feel Like That?”

I was in elementary school. It was benign. It’s the little things that shape your view of yourself.

I was the only black person in the class, and kids would touch my hair and say “Why does it feel like that? Why does it do that?”

I remember sometimes hearing “You’re pretty for a Black girl.”

It’s hard to admit this now, but back then, I remember seeing it as you’re not good enough. You have to accept you’re not good enough for this or you have to be twice as good to be good just because you’re Black.

Katrina Dupins

“My Dad Would Kill Me If I Dated a Black Girl”

You have to unlearn a lot of stuff. Like when white girls would touch your hair and wipe their hands on their pants. Back then, our hair was straight, we thought it needed to look like theirs.

There was one white boy I had a crush on who said “My dad would kill me if I dated a Black girl.” 

He said the only pretty Black girl he knew was Beyonce. He was comfortable saying that to me.

You learn to brace yourself for those things. It was hard to speak up when you’re the only one. I was never called the n-word, but when I heard it, I  knew it was my responsibility to speak up.

You didn’t want to draw attention to your Blackness. We were comfortable talking about Black history but not calling attention to the fact we were Black. We could be Black at church and Black at home, but we had to hide ourselves everywhere else.

Adena White

My Own Racial Reckoning

“He just gives me a calming feeling.” As Barack Obama strode to the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to eulogize the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, my wife said the exact thought racing through my mind. 

There is just something about him. He is decent. He is wise. He is reassuring. Whatever it is, he has it. But 12 years ago, all I could see was the color of his skin.

I was 18 and eager to vote for the first time in my life. All the common refrains had been uttered to me. It was my duty. I couldn’t complain if I didn’t vote. So, here I went. 

I don’t remember much about that ticket, maybe an amendment that was poorly worded and hard to decipher, but not much else. 

What I do remember is the presidential ticket: Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat, and Sen. John McCain, Republican. I remember getting to the all-important vote and being ready to cast my ballot for Obama. 

It felt like the right choice for me. I had not paid much attention to the campaign, but I was struck by him. Maybe it was his youth, his vigor, his message of hope, and “Yes we can!” but whatever it was, I was ready to vote for him. 

As I reached my hand out to touch Obama’s name on the screen, the thought rushed into my head, “Can a black man be president?” 

I stopped. 

Whatever feelings I had in support of Obama were gone. I voted for John McCain that day and for no other reason than his opponent was black. 

I was a college freshman on inauguration day, sitting in a music appreciation class. Our teacher stopped the lesson to ensure we could watch the first Black president take the oath of office. There were no overwhelming feelings of shame or guilt. I was genuinely intrigued to see Obama sworn into office.

However, there should have been. To state the all-too-common white person proverb, “I have Black friends.” I had Black friends throughout elementary, middle and high school. I hung out with them. I played sports with them. I went places with them. 

That wasn’t enough. That isn’t enough. All the good will and actions I could conjure up mean nothing if I am not able to say a Black man can and should be president.

I don’t feel I was alone that day in my thoughts, either. It is quite possible or even probable that most did not consider Obama’s race while voting, relying only on their beliefs and his policy initiatives.

But more than we would like to admit probably entered the voting booth with similar feelings as me and either found it easier to vote against him because of his skin color, or, as in my case, it was the deciding blow.

It helps show the depths of racism and bigotry we have yet to address in our country. We can say and do all — or nearly all — the right things in public, but still hold private thoughts and feelings that hold us back.

I am only 30 years old now and have lived through just five administrations and just a handful of those with any sense of recollection or feeling of impact on my daily life. I assume I will live through many more in the years to come. However, I would be surprised if Barack Obama is not the most influential president of my lifetime.

Throughout his administration, I grew to deeply admire him for his leadership, principles and the devotion he showed his family and to us. If there was ever anyone I identified with the statement “my president,” it was him.

Sure, I will always admire him for all the ways I feel he moved our country forward, but most of all, I appreciate him for helping me see the changes I needed to make as an individual. Changes that have made me a better person and helped me address parts of my life I was ashamed of admitting existed.

Obama has not been my only racial reckoning in my adult life. There was a deeper, more troublesome realization I had to come to regarding my feelings toward the Hispanic community regarding illegal immigration.

I was guilty of deeply prejudiced views toward them, which bled over into how I viewed the entire community. I was guilty of using racial slurs in conversations from time to time to describe them. It came from a place of fear, hate, ignorance and misunderstanding. Thankfully, through self-evaluation and learning, this changed some years ago. 

I don’t share all of this because it is gratifying to do so or to virtue signal, but because I don’t think my story is unique in our country. I am sure many still hold the beliefs to which I used to cling. 

Some are more pronounced than others which stay hidden in the recesses of our minds and lives. Regardless of their placement, they hold us all back.

If we do not address these beliefs, we allow them to fester. We allow them to impact our daily decisions. We allow them to impact how we interact with people who do not look like us. We allow ourselves to be less than we can and should be.

Until we address their existence and confront them, nothing will change.

Change will be painful. Change will be difficult. Change will take acknowledging the parts of our lives we like to hide and disregard. But no matter how agonizing it might be, it is necessary and long overdue.

Why Dixie Reckoning?

I grew up in the South. I’ve lived here my entire life, and more than likely will remain here until the day I die. I knew racism existed, but it seemed in the abstract.

Charlottesville brought that lie to a screeching halt.

Seeing racists and Nazis marching openly, proudly in our streets in support of a superior race was horrifying. They waved Confederate and Nazi flags, chanted “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us,” and didn’t care who saw them. They didn’t feel the need to hide behind masks in the dead of night anymore. Their violence resulted in one death and the injury of many more when a car rammed into a large group of protestors.

I live more than 900 miles from Charlottesville, Virginia, but I felt a personal responsibility in the aftermath. Indirectly, I had helped create the atmosphere and culture where this was possible and hadn’t done enough to stamp it out.

It is easy to see your faults and missteps in moments like that, and to separate yourself from overtly racist actions like we saw in Charlottesville. The difficult times are those less obvious moments, whether it’s comments we hear, thoughts we have, actions we take or things we ignore.

It isn’t hard to feel outraged, angry and call for change when Nazis walk openly down the street or when people like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are killed. Those moments come with sudden, visceral responses that typically fade away just as quickly as they came.

For things to truly change, it has to be felt in those daily, unnoticed, easy-to-be-ignored moments of racism and bias.

To be in a position to respond in those moments, we have to listen to the voices and stories of those unlike us. Only then can we start to understand their daily experiences and begin to change.

Dixie Reckoning will begin to tell those stories. We need to listen. We need to change. We need a reckoning.