A Deeply Imperfect Democracy

If I’m here, how come I’m here? Who is not here so that I can be here? And if we are here because some form of violence is taking place, how can we address the experiences that are relevant not only to the world in which we live, but to the world that we want to create?”

Cristina Rivera Garza, Winter 2020

Orion vehemently condemns the seditious terrorism and violent expression of white supremacy that was incited by President Trump and perpetrated by his supporters on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Black and brown voters made Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s path to the White House possible, and the attempt to derail the certification of their win was a deliberate and transparent effort to strip those citizens of the power of their vote. The tepid response of law enforcement, particularly when compared to the predatory treatment of peaceful protestors of color throughout and before 2020, is a cartoonishly obvious illustration of how white privilege works.

White supremacy in America is not a defined set of obviously abhorrent behaviors or human rights violations—it is a continuum in time and culture, and all Americans live within its dimensions. What happened on Wednesday is a point on that continuum, preceded by extermination of this continent’s Indigenous people; the kidnap, torture, and murder of Africans for chattel slavery; and the permeation of racist beliefs and behavior throughout the development of America’s identity as a nation over 400 years. This identity includes ideas about American landscape and ecology, and thus the literature that describes them. Orion, as a steward of that genre, is committed to taking proactive responsibility for where we fall on that continuum, and to helping bend its shape toward justice.

Our democracy is deeply imperfect. Possibly so imperfect that “democracy” is a misnomer. Even if we are not surprised by what happened this week—and we shouldn’t be—we can and should be shocked. And we must transform that shock into a deeper commitment to justice and decency, and to active reparations for the harm not just of the last four years, but the last 400. 

— Madeline Miller, Strategic Director