There is a pervasive belief that the white supremacist-led rallies taking place around the country are attention-seeking exploits. “Don’t counter-protest, they crave your attention,” the admonishments go. “If you ignore them they will go away.”
Frankly, this is bullshit.
White supremacy has never been about attention. While some personalities may seek it to satisfy their egos or to grow their brands, there is no evidence that attention-seeking is the mission of these groups. The August 12 “Unite the Right” rally scheduled in my hometown of Charlottesville will feature popular alt-right personalities such as Richard Spencer (63.5k Twitter followers), Baked Alaska (174k Twitter followers), and Based Stick Man (26.3k Twitter followers). These people don’t need attention. They already have it. Nobody is coming to Charlottesville, Virginia (MSA population: ~207,000) for the size of the audience. Most people can’t even distinguish the city from Charlotte, North Carolina. We don’t even have an Olive Garden.
It further beggars belief that these right-wing personalities could be craving so strongly the focus of the “antifa” that they hate so much. Alt-right message boards are laden with an anti-leftist rage that betrays fear, not admiration. The right trembles when the Black Bloc shows up.
Oh, and have I mentioned yet that the far-right owns the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court? And we’re still peddling this narrative of desperation?
Indeed, this is because white supremacists are not seeking attention. They are seeking hegemony. They are seeking the dominance of the other. They are seeking power on the backs of the labor of the marginalized. Denying attention doesn’t starve these organizations of access to power. Politicians in the states of Georgia and North Carolina have recently been photographed alongside known white supremacists. Steve Bannon and Seb Gorka are presidential advisors. Much like the schoolyard bully, ignoring them proves to be a terrible strategy for making them go away.
White supremacy has been ignored for years and yet it is now the strongest it has been in my lifetime. White supremacy continues to grow in strength largely because white liberals continue to enable them by acceding to their demands and imploring people to not resist. It is inconceivable to think that movements with hundreds of thousands of followers cannot self-sustain if not for the ire of the left.
White supremacists seek to maintain existing power structures, not build new ones. Ignoring them supports the status quo. Ignoring empowers them to act unimpeded to accomplish their agenda. White supremacy is a fungus that grows in a damp, shitty darkness. It is eradicated by the light of day and the vocal, unwavering resistance of those who refuse to be oppressed by it any longer. It is eradicated through the allyship of white people willing to follow marginalized folk with vast experience leading and organizing. White supremacy didn’t start with Trump; and if you’re just discovering here in 2017 that it has a platform, you’re probably unsuited to proffer advice on how to combat it, particularly when that advice is exactly what you’ve been doing this whole time.
People who want attention don’t use private, invite-only Facebook groups. They don’t use codenames. They don’t obscure their faces in photos.
White supremacy doesn’t want your attention. It wants your inaction. Don’t give it what it wants. Show up, follow, and resist.