It sounds like a scene from a dystopian novel.
A crowd of white supremacists marched through the University of Virginia campus, carrying torches and shouting “white lives matter,” “you will not replace us,” and the infamous Nazi slogan classified as hate speech by the Anti-Defamation League, “blood and soil.”
The next day, a rally was held nearby, proposing to “Unite the Right.” Posters advertising the event depicted the confederate flag and the Imperial Eagle symbol of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany. Another said, simply, “Join, or die.”
Members of the KKK were among those in attendance, wearing their peaked hats and carrying White Knight flags.
And before the day was done, a vehicle driven by 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist from Ohio, plowed through a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one woman and injuring at least 19 more. Prior to the attack, Fields was photographed wielding a shield that bore the symbol for Vanguard America, classified as a hate group by the SPLC.
Later, the president of the United States released a vague statement condemning hate and urging unity ― without actually calling out white supremacists, Nazis, fascists, or the “alt-right.”
What’s wrong with this picture? Basically, everything.
This is America in 2017, folks. This is the country that we are taught is “the greatest nation on earth” by virtue of our freedom ― as though the concept of freedom is something uniquely American, something unavailable anywhere else on earth. This is a nation founded on white nationalist principles ― a nation that, despite the forward progress of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, never managed to shed its cruel history of racial oppression.
The trees of slavery and segregation may have been cut down ― but the roots of white supremacy remain.
We see it in events such as the attack on counter-protestors in Charlottesville. We see it in our for-profit prison system, where people of color are targeted and enslaved. We saw it in the War on Drugs, a movement that aimed to rid the streets of black people under the guise of ridding the streets of crime. We saw it in the 2016 presidential campaign, when prominent members of white supremacist groups publicly supported Donald Trump, and later, when Trump filled his cabinet with people who have histories of making racist statements (or, in the case of Steve Bannon, having explicit ties to white supremacist groups).
For those of us white folks who are paying attention, racism is everywhere. And we can pat ourselves on the back all we want for acknowledging it ― but the truth is that simply acknowledging the struggles people of color face on a daily basis isn’t enough.
We, as white people, have privilege based on the color of our skin. And with that privilege comes a responsibility to stand up for what is right and denounce hatred, intolerance, and oppression.
Sure, lots of us understand that racism exists, and that it’s bad. But despite that understanding, too many of us remain silent ― and that silence is far, far too loud.
Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and not all of us are able to start movements, take to the streets, or donate money. Fortunately, there are other, simpler ways to show solidarity.
Do you call out white supremacy when you see it ― or do you look the other way? Too many of us do the latter, but in a social climate where white silence equals white consent, we cannot afford not to speak up.
Do you teach your children to resist white supremacy? Do you make sure they understand that we are a nation built by immigrants, and that diversity is an enrichment to our country instead of a threat to it? Simply teaching them that racism is bad isn’t enough. The lives of marginalized people literally depend on the younger generations, for these will soon be the people who become leaders.
It’s that easy. If we can find no other way to show support, based on our circumstances, we can at least stand up for our fellow citizens by denouncing white supremacy and all it stands for.
We, as Americans, have grown up in a racist society ― a society that touts our own greatness and celebrates the advancements we’ve made in industry, technology and economy, all the while failing to acknowledge that it came at a cost of hundreds of thousands of black, brown and indigenous lives. We can’t help what we were born into ― but we can help change the course.
So, fellow white people ― my message to you is this.
When you ignore the pervasiveness of white supremacy, you become part of the problem.
When you think of it as mostly a thing of the past, you become part of the problem.
When you reduce it to nothing more than a handful of ignorant people, rather than the dangerous and persistent movement that it is, you become part of the problem.
When you see white supremacy in action and do nothing to challenge it, you become part of the problem.
Even our president couldn’t manage to align himself against the alt-right in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville ― though that’s hardly surprising, given his history. What does that say about us? About America?
Fellow white people: will you do better than our president? Please?
Will you stand up? Will you say something? Will you pass on a legacy of love and acceptance?
Will you help turn America into the great nation it’s supposed to be? Or will you watch as it crumbles?
This country desperately needs our help.
Will you be part of the problem... or part of the solution?
#whitesupremacy #charlottesville #blacklivesmatter #unitetheright #altright