Epiphany 2021: The hoods are off

Epiphany

a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

The Christian feast of the Epiphany (the arrival of the wise ones to the manger) is honored annually on January 6. 

Apocalypse:

something viewed as a prophetic revelation, from Greek — apokalypsis — means an unveiling, a revelation.

Police officer helps a white terrorist walk down stairs safely.
Image credit: CNN; source: @EchoK

I am holding these two terms closely in the days following the white supremacist attack on the U.S. Capitol building. Watching images of police officers allow white-skinned, Christian terrorists to walk forthrightly into the building with weapons, with Confederate flags, with hate speech imprinted on their clothing was sobering for me. I feel like I had a capital- E Epiphany about the role of white skin in American life many years ago, but I continue to experience smaller, ‘aha’ moments all the time – about my own unearned privileges as a white-skinned person, about the shade of skin with which my daughter was born, about the shades of skin that walk into my classrooms each semester. Skin color plays a role in every single one of my interactions with others every single day. It affects how my students see me, how the cashier at the grocery store sees me, and, importantly, how law enforcement officers see me. My unearned privileges living in this skin bag grow higher in number because of my cis-gender female presentation and they to increase, I notice, as I’ve gotten older. 

To anyone who wonders whether their skin color matters when they call on the police, please let the events of January 6, 2021 be your Epiphany. Cops see us white folks coming, and they hesitate. They hedge. They allow. They don’t do this for our black and brown sisters and brothers. They attack. They draw weapons. They murder. 

We all do it. We all have been conditioned to notice skin color and respond to certain skin colors with certain reactions. It is all of our responsibilities to face this reality. We have to notice our reactions, question them closely, and fix it. We must do this as individuals, yes, but also we must hold our institutions accountable. It is unjust, immoral, and sinful that we have this behavior and these beliefs, and that we have built them into our systems – our law enforcement, our education, our health care – it’s everywhere. And on January 6, it was broadcast on television for all to see. It was an unveiling.

We get to see so-called Christians exhibit abhorrent, despicable acts of racial terror in broad daylight, on television, at our nation’s capital. It is there to see. The hoods are off. 

We are living in a time of apocalypse. It is an unveiling. It is painful and grotesque to witness, but it illuminates for us white folks the utter horror people of color have known for ages in the U.S. We got to see how police officers reacted when white-skinned people invaded a federal building. We get to compare that to how law enforcement behaved when largely people of color marched peacefully in protest against racist shootings in the summer. We get to see so-called Christians exhibit abhorrent, despicable acts of racial terror in broad daylight, on television, at our nation’s capital. It is there to see. The hoods are off. 

May the occurrence of the attack on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, be an Epiphany for us white folks. May it be another step in the unveiling of the diseased wound of racism, colonialism, and white supremacy that is at the heart of our nation. We need the exhale of the ‘a-ha.’ We need the light of day. As you and I both know, it is only with light and air that a diseased wound can hope to heal.

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