Earlier this week, an investigative journalist released a harrowing report about his time infiltrating a heavily armed, right-wing, white militia group.
The story provided an intriguing level of depth into the frightening minds and actions of the men who are quickly populating the FBI’s terror watch list. The membership numbers of these types of groups exploded after President Obama was elected in 2008, and while most people may not be able to explicitly identify who these groups are, many are familiar with Cliven Bundy and the clan who helped train sniper rifles on federal agents outside of his expansive ranch.
In April 2014, after Bundy and his militiamen clashed with the federal government and backed them down with automatic rifles and other deadly weaponry, many communities of color were absolutely stunned to witness the level of treasonous audacity that they were able to get away with. And that astonishment only doubled after we collectively witnessed the heavy-handed, over-militarized and unsparing response that Black and brown protesters received several months later on the streets of Ferguson.
— John Roman (@JohnKRoman) November 17, 2014
But that paled in comparison to the Bundy militia’s next trick: illegally seizing a federal wildlife refuge for 41 days in an armed insurrection, being arrested alive, and then being found not guilty of any federal charges.
On the same day police violently arrested 141 citizens and moved in on Native Americans protesting the North Dakota Access Pipeline who simply want to preserve their clean drinking water, the Bundys were allowed to confidently stroll out of court.
White privilege, 2016:
— David Harris-Gershon (@David_EHG) October 28, 2016
The truth is that the Bundy decision didn’t boil down to the talent of their lawyers, any perceived media influence, or a lack of definitive facts. It came down to the one simple truism: the benefits of white privilege.
For people of color, there is no situation in which this circumstance would happen to us in America. Once you begin to examine the instance step by step, it’s impossible to not hit a roadblock that would end up with us being killed or jailed.
How exactly would a group of Black militants fare if they decided to train their automatic weapons on federal agents?What would happen to a collection of Black activists who decided that they wanted to take over a federal building with guns? How many arrests would be made if the police decided to storm that building and bring the siege to an end? If we were on trial facing federal charges with our crimes having been documented on tape for all to see, how many Blacks would beat that case? How many Muslims would beat that case? In America, what race of people—other than white people—would possibly have a serious chance at winning that case?
To some, that is an interesting hypothetical, but to those in the know, those are damn near rhetorical questions.
Got friends STILL fighting unlawful protest (non-violent) charges from 2 years ago in Ferguson and armed takeover militia in Oregon walks?
— R’asclat Al Ghul (@Felonious_munk) October 27, 2016
We saw what happened in 1967 when 30 Black Panthers walked into the California Statehouse with their guns—which wasn’t even illegal at the time. They were arrested, charged with “conspiracy to disrupt a legislative session” and forced to plead out to misdemeanors. The GOP (aka. the second amendment party) joined with the NRA to concoct the Mulford Act aimed to prevent Californians from having open carry. As much as conservative, right-wing white Americans love their guns, they don’t love them enough to see them in the hands of Black people.
The shout-outs and executions of Black Panthers blatantly showed us what happens when Black folks dare to train weapons on the police, even in self-defense. And the numerous incidents of state-sponsored violence where men and women of color are violently murdered while unarmed is proof enough of how we’re to be treated by law enforcement and the justice system whether we choose to fight for equality or not.
While some people may like to dismiss the term white privilege as nothing more than a flowery academic idiom, the truth is that white privilege is very real and very harmful to our collective co-existence in a nation where two different sets of rules are being actively propagated. And there may be no greater example of that then witnessing how the Bundy militiamen were treated by the local police, the federal agents, and the entire justice system; the same people who brutalize, imprison and kill us with impunity.
Image: Cliven Bundy mugshot
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.