By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Yeah, he said it. Doesn’t matter how many times you pressed rewind, the words were clear as day, “Stand back and stand by.” This statement, from Donald Trump, during the first 2020 presidential debate has hung around like the nooses of the old south. Swinging, from the POTUS’s mouth, was the unspoken nod to white supremacy. We all saw it, we all heard it and we all understood the real threat that those words posed. They emboldened a hate group, were an assault on all of us, and should have never been said.
As I reeled from the vileness of that moment, the documentary, “Fannie Lou Hamer: Stand Up,” crossed my mind. I thought about Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson, Crispus Attucks, Thurgood Marshall, Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, the Tuskegee Airmen, Velvalea “Vel” Phillips and so many more. All of these people stood up to racism, discrimination and bigotry. Whether fighting for education, civil rights, fair representation, women’s equality, fair housing or the very safety of this nation, they stood up.
They stood despite domestic terrorists groups like the KKK and white supremacy sympathizers. Regardless of the threat of violence, incarceration or death, they stood. Today, we are called upon to do no less.
On the same day, that Trump couldn’t bring himself to take a stance against white supremacy, many of us became familiar with a report penned by the FBI. Titled “Boogaloo Adherents Likely Increasing Anti-Government Violent Rhetoric and Activities, Increasing Domestic Violent Extremist Threat in the FBI Dallas Area of Responsibility,” the Sept. 29 document warned of a “violent extremist threat” posed by a far-right militia that includes white supremacists. It further identified the Nov. 3 election through the 2021 inauguration, as a “potential flashpoint.”
In September, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the majority of domestic terrorism threats and violence comes from “racially motivated violent extremism,” based in white supremacist ideologies.
Trump was likely aware of this information, when he took the debate stage. But, when asked to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they needed to stand down, Trump said most problems were from “the left wing, not from the right wing.” When reminded of the FBI’s report during the presidential debate and that Antifa is not a militia, Trump replied “Oh, you gotta [sic] be kidding.”
As the nation’s jaw dropped, white supremacist groups cheered. While these groups were busy printing new logos and t-shirts with the phrase “Stand Back and Stand By,” those that remembered or understood the ugly era of Black Codes and Jim Crow, sat in disbelief.
And then, I thought about Fannie Lou Hamer and the others. With their strength and example, I stood up resolving to continue the fight for democracy. When we all stand up, against threats and intimidation, bullying and racism, inequity and hate, we BECOME the America we say we are. STAND UP!