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White Terrorism


White Terrorism

Robert C. Koehler

The president doesn’t “love” America?

Would that it were true. Would that Rudy Giuliani’s five-star Republican nightmare actually paced the Oval Office, pondering how to disarm, demilitarize . . . defang American exceptionalism.


That great liberal, and also that wealthy slave owner, one Thomas Jefferson famously said: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.” Jefferson was writing of the damnable sin of holding human souls as mere property, as chattels to be worked, dominated and traded. Jefferson was not a stupid man: he saw that a Great Wrong would have dire consequences for the perpetrators, no matter how much they tried to deceive themselves that their evil was really good. When the Civil War came about, with its all horror and carnage, those Americans who understood what Jefferson was saying were hardly surprised.

The greatest Americans have always been those who see what the future holds in store for a criminal society. In other words, they have been a type of the prophet. There is John Brown, who warned that the slavery controversy would not be at an end with his death. There is Frederick Douglass who said that power concedes nothing without a struggle. Robert Koehler’s piece is in that noble tradition. Rudolph Guilliani is an absurd and despicable character. His pandering to white racism is disgusting. Koehler is right that we need more Americans to hate the evil side of American history if the nation is to have any chance of a decent moral future. Many so-called “white” Americans think that the Civil Rights Movement was all about liberating “the blacks.” They don’t understand that the African American freedom struggle represents the emancipation of all of us, from the chains of American history.


The Koch and Walton education reform(ha ha ha) seek to bury and/or erase or rewrite real history. There are always dark forces afoot. Our nations are destroying us.


Few authors so liberally make use of the all-inclusive WE clause:

“The point of taking this report to heart isn’t to flip from “loving America to hating it, but to grope, with all the courage one can muster, for reasons why we are the way we are, indeed, to find and acknowledge that inner beast, which is still as ferocious as ever.”

Once again, Koehler uses what was done by the Dominators and generalizes it to include all those alive at the time.

What does the thoughtful person suspect would happen when, the town bully fired up the local boys into a fever pitch and out of that mood lynched a Black man?

Would does he think would happen to any mild mannered man of conscience who might try to oppose that wave of fury? (Mississippi Burning comes to mind.)

And as for the women, demonstrating the wholesale lack of both imagination, empathy, and any understanding of HOW patriarchy works to induce compliance in all members of society, Koehler hardly seems to understand how easy it is for the wrath of cruel, lawless men to turn on their wives, daughters, and sisters.

Like Blacks, women had no agency outside of a sexist system that oppressed them.

My point is that there were plenty of people who HATED racist acts and cruelty in general, but they were outgunned by The Dominators.

When the system itself is based on white male privilege and white male authority, anyone who is neither white nor male will become a target of collective scorn for daring to challenge that system.

As for the church folks that watched the spectacles, when life is made cruel through caste, class, and gender tiered systems, there’s probably relief in seeing someone else take the punishment.

How many mistake human nature for what its crippled counterpart (the result of asymmetric power, privilege, sovereignty, etc.) looks like? I think Koehler is in THAT club.


I disagree that Koehler is in the club that “mistake[s] human nature for what its crippled counterpart… looks like.” I read Koehler’s “we” in this article not as a strong assertion of collective culpability for U.S. slavery, genocide, and colonial imperialist domination–an assertion that would seek to blur the fact that the elite of “the Dominators” can be identified by race (nearly exclusively white), gender (nearly exclusively male), wealth (nearly exclusively wealthy), and creed (patriarchal white nationalist elitist capitalist supremacists), but as a way to touch on how every one of “us” current citizens of the U.S. has power of one kind or another to help expose the “inner beast” of deep-seated patriarchal imperialist ideology, the mightily manufactured message that U.S. domination (domestic and worldwide) is good, rational, and unstoppable.

I agree with you that “patriarchy works to induce compliance in all members of society,” and that we need to discriminate between victims and victimizers in the perpetuation of victimization/domination if “we” as a whole society are to acknowledge and address this history. Koehler, as I read him, is seeking to promote just such an acknowledgment when he speaks of chipping away at U.S. white supremacist ideology by creating memorials and markers of sites of lynchings and slave markets throughout this land. He doesn’t speak of patriarchy per se, so it’s great that you do.

“We” U.S. citizens do not possess equal power, and “we” U.S. citizens are not equally culpable for the crimes of U.S. settler imperialism. But “we” U.S. citizens, from the most privileged to the least, all know something of the “inner beast” of the U.S.–many different “somethings” from many different experiences, each of which, if brought into the light, can add to a great truth-telling. I think Koehler is simply trying, in this essay, to say let’s all do this.


Granted, many have been telling truths for a long time–especially those getting a beating by the U.S. So maybe Koehler’s message is here more for those who haven’t. As a white man of considerable privilege–Ivy League educated, although as a part-time public school teacher, my personal wealth lies below the U.S. median–I’ve lived much of my life seeking to understand how best to live for transformation of my society into one that has abolished white privilege and patriarchy. For me, it’s often an uplifting promise to seek to live this way. It is also a matter of my seeking to be rid of the misery of my forced participation in systems of cruelty.