How White Backlash Inspired Roland Martin’s New Book About Resisting Racial Hatred
Courtesy of Roland Martin
In 1910 WEB Du Bois wrote “The discovery of personal whiteness among the peoples of the world is a very modern thing, a matter of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, indeed… This assumption that of all the hues of God, the whiteness alone is inherently and obviously better than brown or tan leads to curious acts,” in an essay, “The Souls of White People.”
More than a century later, political commentator and journalist Roland Martin addresses this same concept in his latest book, “White Fear: How the Browning of America is Making White Folks Lose Their Minds,” stating “The attack on the Capitol of the United States was the work of white domestic terrorists. It has nothing to do with economic anxiety. It is about the fear that black people and other minority voices will assert their power at the ballot box and in other other areas of minority life.
After 2020 census data indicated that for the first time in our nation’s history, the white population was declining from the previous decade, it caused a phenomenon, validated by studies that showed that “When people are in the majority, their sense of race is dormant. But the prospect of being in the minority can suddenly make white identity – and all the historical privilege that comes with it – salient. And…the perspective to lose majority status [is] likely to make people (perhaps unconsciously) uncomfortable.
In this book, written with Leah Lakins, Martin connects the dots between the rise of Donald Trump, QAnon and the Tea Party to demonstrate that these events are in fact not isolated events; but simply remnants of American culture and political power.
Martin sat down with ESSENCE via Zoom to discuss the implications for our country if this tide is not reversed, why he felt compelled to write this book, and a call to action for readers “to create the kind of country that we are all welcome and proud to live in.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ESSENCE: What was your inspiration for writing this book?
In 2009, I came across a survey question that asked, “Are you optimistic about America’s future for your children?” African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Majority said yes, the only group that was below the Majority was White Americans. At the time, I said, we are living in the early stages of white minority resistance. Trust me. What will happen with Obama? We are about to see Americans really freaking out because the demographics of the country are changing. We are heading towards a nation becoming majority made up of people of color, and when you start to watch the reaction to [Obama’s] presidency and other areas that confirmed it, white Americans feel they could lose financial and social status when people of color gain traction in these areas. There are so many people in this country who are unhappy because they can’t handle this. What I state in the book, and what I need our people to understand, is that there are historical parallels. You’ve always seen this in American history – black success has always been followed by white backlash. We are faced with this again. The same thing happened after the civil rights movement, and that’s been white history in this country, and we have to understand that we’re still dealing with that.
ESSENCE: On the other hand, do you think there is such a thing as fear of black people, and could that be used to motivate us to ballots in the same way?
Yes, you can see it right now. Immigration is one of those issues, you have black people looking like white people, “immigration is killing us. They’re taking our jobs. It’s fear, and the fact is we have to be honest at what we can’t do is mirror what they’re doing, and we have to talk about the whole issue, that’s why I’m arguing that we have to be tough on education. tough when it comes to voting We must be tough on supporting and building Black-owned businesses because by 2043 we should be able to take advantage of the changing demographics We have 21 years of black America, to pull ourselves together and enjoy it, and that’s what we should be focusing on.
ESSENCE: Given your forecast for the next 20 years, can you tell us more about the interaction between the conservative court and the legislature, the latter being controlled by the Democrats?
First, the Republicans’ goal was to appoint federal judges between the ages of 35 and 52 to the federal judiciary, so that they would be appointed for life. But, Samuel Alito, 72, and Clarence Thomas, 74, are now the two oldest justices on the Supreme Court. No one knows how long they’ll be there, and no one knows if they’ll retire or actually die on the bench, which means if you’re black you better make sure there has a Democrat in the White House. . Because who appoints the judges of the Supreme Court? President. So when we talk about the Supreme Court, I think generationally. I want us to be strategic in our thinking. President Joe Biden, so far, has appointed more federal judges in his first two years than Trump has appointed in his first two years, so we need to make sure the Democrats keep the Senate. Why? Thus, he can continue to appoint and confirm black federal judges.
Republicans presented a bigenerational game plan to take control of the Supreme Court and get rid of Roe vs. Wade. So I want black people, young black women, young black men to vote strategically and start saying, ‘I need to make sure there are people in positions who are more likely to vote the way I want ‘they vote, to make sure I get the kind of country I want. What I’m afraid of, that I spread with white fear it’s that you’re going to have white voters who, as their numbers dwindle, are going to step up their vote. Our direct demographic numbers will increase, and that’s good, but will our voter registration increase? Will our voter turnout increase? I’m predicting right now that you’re going to have an intensity of their voters, and therefore their turnout is going to increase and our turnout isn’t going up. They are going to continue to hold power because we are going to leave our vote at home because we are upset and angry or just checking. They will move towards no longer being numerically in the majority, but still in control politically and economically. To me, that’s not what a younger sibling should want to see by 2043.
ESSENCE: One line in your book particularly touched me: “You can’t separate Trump and the Republican Party.” I’ve had a lot of interactions with Republicans who say, “I don’t really like Trump. He’s not really part of the Republican Party. But I will still vote for him. Why do you think this is?
Because they [Republicans] understand power. In 2016, I was in a bar watching TV and started talking with another patron who was like, “I can’t stand Trump, but I just don’t like Hillary. I asked him to pull out a sheet of paper and write down his top 10 issues and put a check next to Trump’s or Hillary’s name when it comes to that issue. He ended up getting three ticks by Trump and seven by Hillary, then said “I still can’t vote for her.” I asked, “Even if you literally agree with Hillary Clinton on seven of your 10 issues?” He says, “No, I can’t.”
Democrats and Progressives are emotional – I don’t like that; I didn’t get everything I wanted so I’m not going to support you. That’s the difference between Republicans and Democrats, and what I say to black people is that it’s undeniable when you look at the issues and the stories: Who are we most likely to get shares from? Positives and Laws, Democrats or Republicans? I’m not saying just cast your vote, you should push and push, force them to engage and then when they’re in there, give them the hell. We have already seen what the other party will not do. So if people want to play these games, go for it, but I’m telling you how it’s going to end, and it’s not going to be good for us.
ESSENCE: What message would you like readers to leave?
When you look at the cover of the book, this image was chosen by design. First of all, it’s from January 6, and the image is of a white man with his arms outstretched, resembling a pose of Jesus, his head thrown back. He literally says it’s all ours [with his stance]. January 6 was a response to the black vote, and I need people to understand, they are now trying to put their own people in power to validate the elections, to take over the electoral commissions. They’re running for attorney general, for secretary of state, for governor, and they’re playing for real. They are mobilizing and organizing to keep their power, and it will be to our detriment [if we ignore it]. We better wake up and see what they’re up to. It’s time for us to get to work.