Insurrection and White Privilege

by Dan Sealy

I live part-time  in the Washington D.C. Metro area. I’ve learned that increased helicopter activity over our home typically is bad news. On January 6, I was in a virtual meeting with other groups working to protect endangered species while a joint session of Congress was certifying the election of Joe Biden as the next President. I heard helicopters and soon saw the message that Vice President Pence had been shuffled out of the Senate chambers to a safe place. The rioters had forced their way into the US Capitol building with surprisingly little resistance from law enforcement. Unbelievable and shocking. The next day I was on an unrelated Zoom call with over 100 people, mostly residents of DC. I saw that good friends were in the meeting including Paige, a black woman who is an international economist, and Melanie, a young black priest. At least half the participants were black or brown. After opening remarks we were divided into small groups. Paige and I were in the same room. In the 20 years I have known Paige she has always been calm and professional. Her words that day nearly brought me to tears; we have heard them before: “If I had been in that mob, I would have been shot immediately — only because of my skin color.” She was correct and there is a great deal of anger in our nation. Friends of color declared the event an insurrection by people encouraged by the President and emboldened by their own white privilege. People are angry our democracy was treated like a disposable tissue; something to wad up and throw away. Americans still have a lot of work to do to assure civil rights for all and President Biden has said he is committed to that work. We will need to find where a conservation agenda will fit in with the other crisis America faces. I am inspired by the reminder that in 1864, while President Lincoln fought a devastating war to, among other objectives, abolish slavery, he set aside time to sign the Yosemite Grant Act. The act placed the valley under the stewardship of California for the public “…for all time.” Biden has committed to doing what he can to address the climate crisis. We must remain hopeful.