The white supremacists in Charlottesville and police reaction to them are a perfect example of continued racism’s role as a structural institution in this country. The president and many citizens’ complacency demonstrates acceptance by those who do not experience inequality’s physical and mental effects. The administration’s refusal to condemn these actions is a more extreme example of the ways those of us who are privileged enough can ignore everyday racism.
The white supremacists at UVA were allowed to continue their actions without violence from the police, while Black Lives Matter protestors are repeatedly attacked and arrested. These white supremacists were treated better than Black Lives Matter protestors because that is what we have accepted as status quo. It is wrong. Those who actively intimidate people of color should be punished and held to a higher standard than the most marginalized. If you have the most privilege available in this society, you should be even more responsible for your actions, not the opposite. The difference between Black Lives Matter protestors and the white supremacists enacting violence is that the former are fighting for equality, and the latter to eradicate any threats to the inequality they benefit from.
When we as white people do not point out the small ways other white people in our lives perpetuate this behavior, we support it by default. We effectively accept these white supremacists when we do not address microaggressions in our workplace, speak to friends and family who display racist attitudes, and actively support people of color who are forced to experience this trauma every day. Simply tweeting outrage at white men and women carrying torches and doing Nazi salutes is empty when done on its own.
Just because you are a woman does not mean you understand the effects and trauma that result from racism. As a white woman, I do not understand the experience of being a racial minority in America, and the burden to actively support people of color falls just as much on me as anyone else. Different trauma is just that—different. It is not the responsibility of those who are being attacked to end racism. They have the right to live as equals to the privileged citizens of this country.
White women who support feminism must ask themselves whether they believe that women who are suffering from trauma after rape or seeking reproductive healthcare should be forced to represent themselves in court and prove their right to control their bodies. The answer is likely no, but that is what you are asking of racial minorities if you fail to devote time and resources to men and women facing racial discrimination and violence.
My writing this post is not enough. This does not count as action, but I want to share it with those who have not experienced what I have that has allowed me to understand my responsibility. I do work as a peer educator on a college campus, but I can always do more. If you are white, please seek information and opportunities to donate time and money, and to use your privilege to advocate for others. Visit Showing Up for Racial Justice at http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/ and talk to the other white people in your lives when you see them doing the things that embolden those like the men and women at UVA. Also talk to those in your acquaintance who have a lot of tweets and have not backed them up with time and resources. It’s a good place to start actively supporting what you believe. We have to do better, there is no excuse.