Reagan's racist policies while president against Grenada, Cuba, Panama, and Libya confirmed his commitment to white supremacy. His support for racist policies against Indigenous peoples (his administration's refusal to let Native people even grow food on an abandoned former military base, turned college for Indigenous people in Northern California, U.S., despite a U.S. treaty giving them that right), as well as his consistent racist policies against African people since being governor of California in the 60s (his and the National Rifle Association's support for banning open carry of guns in California in 1967 to repress the Black Panther Party's legitimate fight against police terrorism), cemented his legacy of white supremacy. So, the fact that this is even something people can consider debatable in 2019 is a clear sign that no matter what, white supremacy continues to be so much of the foundation of this country that separating white supremacy from the U.S. is like a human living without blood . Impossible. The line is so thin that most people have difficulty being able to even recognize white supremacy on any level. That's why what's clearly racist to so many of us is often undetectable to so many other untrained eyes.
This is why the experience I had on an airplane this past week is a classic textbook example of how white supremacy manifests itself within this society. Seated on the plane in the row in front of me was a thirty something father and his approximately three or four year old year old son. Across the aisle from them was presumably the man's wife, and approximately 15 year old daughter. The plane was delayed on the tarmac for an hour. About 10 minutes into the hour, the little boy started unbuckling his seat belt and demanding to do whatever he pleased in the aisle. As the flight attendants were forced to stay prepared to take off, they had requested that everyone stay seated with seatbelts on. This back and forth between the boy and the parents went on. This is understandable. The boy is young and restless and there is not much to do and little space to do it in while seated in economy. What was interesting is sometime around the 30 minute mark of the wait, the little boy began obnoxiously demanding from his mom (he seemed to ignore the father despite the dad's infrequent and ineffective efforts to corral him) that he be permitted to do a number of things that could not be possible. When the boy wasn't able to get his way, he conducted a temper tantrum of crying, yelling, kicking, screaming, and otherwise acting out. The parents, embarrassed and completely overwhelmed, tried to calm him, but clearly lacked the capacity to engage and guide him under those circumstances.
The interesting part is during this entire ordeal, the people seated around me, although clearly agitated at the boy's continued screaming and otherwise disruptive behavior, continued to laugh nervously and to pretend to be entertained by the boy's clear out of line behavior. What struck me about this entire scene is I tried to envision if the family was an African family and the boy was a young African boy behaving that way. I tried to envision the people having that same level of patience, and even support, for the out of control behavior of the little boy. Under no scenario, circumstances ,and/or situation could I envision an African boy being greeted with anything except contempt for behaving that way. Possibly even more aggressive behavior from the surrounding people would have occurred.
I don't think anyone with an objective mind could argue that a young African boy behaving the same way would not be viewed differently. I see white children behaving that way constantly and I rarely see African children doing the same without strict interference from the adults. The reason? Our people understand that our youth being perceived as out of control is a fast track to the penitentiary if not death. Even just an African baby crying is not greeted with the patience I observed on that flight for this little boy. Even that African baby is met with impatient stares, sighs, and all around hostility whether openly expressed or not. Our youth, even our children, are criminalized and any behavior that isn't acceptable to the dominant system is viewed automatically as disruptive and punitive against us, youth included. Our youth are never given the pass to be youth. They are not even given the right to be human!
By the same token, that little boy is not viewed as a threat by the surrounding European (White) people. They don't view him as someone needing to be controlled like they would most likely view an African child. This is indeed strange because my thoughts as I observed this little boy caused me to initially feel guilt. I wanted to chastise myself for not protecting this little boy's humanity, despite his behavior. I decided that any disgust I should have I would reserve for the parents, but as I detected the degree to which they were overwhelmed I found myself having empathy for them as well. The thought that crept into my mind as I watched the little boy was that I was potentially observing the type of conditions that could breed the next mass shooter. Someone entitled who was not accustomed to hearing the word no, something every African child is very comfortable with.
My sincere hope is that boy will grow up to become a healthy, productive, and positive energy human being at all costs. I know that's most likely what will happen and I wouldn't have it any other way. Still, I can't help but think that he will grow up with all the support, second chances, and benefits of the doubt that any human being could hope for. Meanwhile, that African child, same age, same behavior inclinations and efforts to try adults, will be constantly greeted with scorn, disciplinary energy, and the general message that whatever he/she/they do is a problem, period. The entitlement we see in these white terrorists who are racist to their cores and believe they are justified in being that way is the same seed of entitlement I saw on that plane. Again, I'm not saying that boy is on any type of tract to be a terrorist. I am saying that those who do become terrorists, it has to be at least partially because of that enablement. That privilege. That dysfunction. Than, at the same time, we are criminalized for being human beings.
Before anyone reacts and wants to argue, do your own introspective thinking around this. Pay attention to how often you see white children behave like that child on the plane compared to African and other colonized children. More importantly, pay attention to how the actions of those children is received/perceived by those around them. What you find will tell you a lot about the invisible inequities that guide this society, every step of the way.