Proud Boys tore down, stomped on, and set fire to Black churches' BLM signs—and it's barely news

Last weekend, in the wake of the Supreme Court dismissal of a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, the Proud Boys gathered in Washington D.C. for a "Stop the Steal" rally. The irony in the slogan being lost on them, the far-right group took to the streets, and in the process, showed the world that they really are as racist as they are accused of being.

The Proud Boys frequently insist that they are not racist and not the same as white nationalists. They are a male-only group that describes themselves as "Western chauvinists," which essentially means they whine about equality movements infringing on their identity as the obviously superior descendants of Western Civilization's founders—which is a roundabout way of saying "yeah, we're pretty much racist."

The group tries to shield itself from accusations of racism by highlighting the racial identity of their Afro-Cuban chairman, Enrique Torres, in the organizational equivalent of "I can't be racist—I have Black family members!" But considering the fact that a previous Proud Boy member posted a whole screed about staging a coup in the group to officially recognize it as anti-Semitic white nationalists...welp.

Besides, it's pretty hard to argue that you're not racist when you gleefully vandalize Black churches, tearing signs that say "Black Lives Matter" off of them and then celebrating as you desecrate them. The Proud Boys engaged in this vandalism at two Washington D.C. churches, including the oldest Black Methodist church in the city. They ripped down large Black Lives Matter banners, breaking some apart, stomp all over one of them, and setting another one on fire.




Asbury United Methodist Church issued a statement from Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Ianther M. Mills that highlights the history of racism with the church, which was founded decades before the Civil War. It's a beautiful message of resilience, but it's infuriating that it had to be written in the first place. It reads:

Since 1836, Asbury United Methodist Church has stood at the corner of 11&K Streets NW, Washington, DC. We are a resilient people who have trusted in God through slavery and the Underground Railroad, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, and now as we face an apparent rise in white supremacy.

Last night demonstrators who were part of the MAGA gatherings tore down our Black Lives Matter sign and literally burned it in the street. The sign burning was captured on Twitter. It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames. For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings. Seeing this act on video made me both indignant and determined to fight the evil that has reared its ugly head. We had been so confident that no one would ever vandalize the church, but it has happened.

We are a people of faith. As horrible and disturbing as this is for us now—it doesn't compare with the challenges and fears the men and women who started Asbury, 184 years ago, faced. So, we will move forward, undaunted in our assurance that Black Lives Matter and we are obligated to continue to shout that truth without ceasing. We are assured that our church is surrounded by God's grace and mercy.

Sadly, we must point out that if this was a marauding group of men of color going through the city, and destroying property, they would have been followed and arrested. We are especially alarmed that this violence is not being denounced at the highest levels of our nation and instead the leaders of this movement are being invited to the White House.

Asbury United Methodist Church abhors violence of any kind. We call upon all to join us in prayer for our community, church, and the people who are responsible for this hateful behavior. We believe this is a wakeup call for all to be more vigilant and committed to anti-racism and building a beloved community, and we invite you to join us. Our congregation will continue to stand steadfast—"we will not be moved." We press on in the name of the Lord!"

The question of whether these acts are racist isn't up for debate. If your understanding of Black Lives Matter is so skewed that you decry it as a "Marxist" organization or movement—which is how Tarrio himself describes it—then you either haven't been listening to enough voices in the anti-racism world or you've been taken by racist propaganda. And if you do understand that the phrase Black Lives Matter literally just means that Black people's lives do not matter less than other people's, and you choose to destroy any and all expressions of that phrase, that's most definitely racist. There's a reason the incidents are being investigated as hate crimes.

For those who feel tempted to say, "Well what about the destruction of property that ANTIFA/BLM engaged in?" here are some thoughts on that whataboutism:

First, let's be clear that the Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA movements are two entirely separate things. And Black Lives Matter isn't one monolithic thing, but rather a broad movement that includes some organizations that bear the name, and a whole lot more people who support the message of anti-racism. As far as violence, the BLM protests this spring and summer were enormous, widespread, and almost entirely peaceful. The individual spates of rioting and looting, despite being broadcast all over the media and pushed hard by certain right-wing outlets, were not a defining feature of the BLM movement at all—especially considering how much of the violence was actually carried out by white supremacists and Boogaloo Bois intent on undermining the BLM message.

ANTIFA, on the other hand, is its own movement with its own ideology and methods. For those who don't understand what those are, the gist is "Fascism needs to be fought by whatever means necessary." You don't have to agree with their methods—I myself don't—but being against ANTIFA's ideology is basically like saying "Nah, fascism is fine!"

While all acts of violence and destruction are wrong and ultimately counterproductive, they're not all equivalent. Some acts of violence are just dumb humans being dumb humans, regardless of identity or ideology, but some are purposeful statements. There's a difference between a historically oppressed people making a statement about ongoing injustice by desecrating a symbol of their historical oppression, and a group of people making a statement by desecrating messages of equality and justice from the churches of historically oppressed people. One is an expression of liberation from the chains of injustice; the other is an intimidating rattling of those same chains. While I don't condone violence or destruction of any kind, it's disingenuous to create false equivalencies between people who are fighting for equality and justice and people who are fighting against it.

And for a final look at how the Proud Boys operate, check out how they reacted when they thought people who actually think Black lives matter were coming toward them.

If this is what "being proud of Western Civilization" looks like, that's a sad statement about Western Civilization. These actions should be condemned by all.

Several years ago, you wouldn't have known what QAnon was unless you spent a lot of time reading through comments on Twitter or frequented internet chat rooms. Now, with prominent Q adherents making headlines for storming the U.S. Capitol and elements of the QAnon worldview spilling into mainstream politics, the conspiracy theory/doomsday cult has become a household topic of conversation.

Many of us have watched helplessly as friends and family members fall down the rabbit hole, spewing strange ideas about Democrats and celebrities being pedophiles who torture children while Donald Trump leads a behind-the-scenes roundup of these evil Deep State actors. Perfectly intelligent people can be susceptible to conspiracy theories, no matter how insane, which makes it all the more frustrating.

A person who was a true believer in QAnon mythology (which you can read more about here) recently participated in an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, and what they shared about their experiences was eye-opening. The writer's Reddit handle is "diceblue," but for simplicity's sake we'll call them "DB."

DB explained that they weren't new to conspiracy theories when QAnon came on the scene. "I had been DEEP into conspiracy for about 8 years," they wrote. "Had very recently been down the ufo paranormal rabbit hole so when Q really took off midterm for trump I 'did my research' and fell right into it."

DB says they were a true believer until a couple of years ago when they had an experience that snapped them out of it:

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

Holy crap, I actually know people who actually believe this stuff.

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Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

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