Below is a transcript of our interview with Steven Thrasher, a writer-at/large for The Guardian U.S. and a doctoral fellow in American Studies at New York University.
White supremacy is not seeing a resurgence because it hasn’t gone anywhere; it’s just becoming more desperate and more obvious. White supremacy is not just these people carrying torches. White supremacy is health disparities, it’s wealth disparities. White supremacy is redlining, it’s segregation, it’s disparities in education, it’s many things that have happened in the history of the U.S. and still play out in our society. This is very much us.
This is who we are now and it’s who we have been from before the beginning of the founding of this country.
If you look at all of the times in American history where black people have made any kind of progress, there is this retrenchment that happens to try to dial it back.
As Barack Obama came into office, as Black Lives Matter rose up, there was this real fear and this real desperation from...some of the fringe of the right wanting to assert themselves. And from before he even took his oath of office, there was a huge backlash against him, which we’ve seen getting louder and louder and angrier and angrier until it created a blowback force so strong that we saw the election of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is a symptom of where our country is at. He’s not entirely the cause, not the root cause of where we’re at. Because as Trump was rising he was being emboldened by his crowds, by the KKK who was egging him on. He was being emboldened by white media liberal elites who didn’t see the harm he could do coming, and eventually he ends up in the oval office.
And now we have these increasingly overt forms of white supremacy being demonstrated. Now these people don’t feel like they need to hide from who’s in Washington, DC. These young men are carrying torches—and women—are carrying torches. They don’t have to have the hood.
They see that police are allowed to kill black people, black men, every day and are never held to account. And they see that who’s in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has encouraged them to go after protesters and had said on the campaign trail that he would pay for their legal fees.
And so, even though people who look like me—and Muslim people and queer people and women—are not surprised to see what’s happening and the kind of vitriolic hate that we see is not a surprise to us, it’s still very frightening. And it can be a call to action. But we also need realize that we have to pace ourselves because this has gone on for centuries before we were born, and the fight will go on for long after we’re all gone.