Who is Your Priority?
It is beyond my understanding why I still see people who claim to be some sort of ally concerned with the free speech or physical safety of nazis. If it was not absolutely clear to you before (though it should have been), it should be absolutely clear now after Charlottesville that the alt-right wishes to harm POC, Jewish people, immigrants, muslims, and anyone who stands against their agenda of white supremacy. If you’re still spending time wringing your hands about “the way to fight them” and “is it ok to punch a nazi” and “what about free speech,” then you are either missing the stakes here, or you’re valuing nazi lives equally to their victims.
Peoples’ rights, freedoms, well-being, and lives are at stake. That is a fact. If you’re not comfortable with defending people from violence with violence then fine, don’t use that in your fight against nazism. But for fuck’s sake, take a strong stance against nazism one way or another and stop trying to delegitimize people on the front lines. You cannot hide behind MLK Jr. quotes as an excuse for inaction and delegitimization of the people risking their lives to fight white supremacy. If you think that is what MLK Jr. would want, then you don’t understand his philosophies. You can scream “violence breeds violence” all day, but these people will be violent towards minorities regardless. It is more important to you to protect their right to spread their ideologies and face no violence in return for their violence, or is it more important to you to protect the people whose lives are at risk because of them?
Regardless of your feelings about political correctness, there is absolutely no way the “extreme left” or anti-fa can do the harm nazis can because their agenda is not violent. It does not seek to dehumanize others. It does not seek to maintain and grow systems of oppression against many different groups of people. They have not murdered anyone. There is no “reasonable centrism” here. Centrism is not reasonable when the two sides of the spectrum are anti-fascism and nazism. The middle is of this spectrum is being complicit with white supremacy.
We spent so much time arguing amongst ourselves about whether or not Milo Yiawhothefuckcaresopolis should be able to speak on college campuses that we let his ilk and worse make a message of white supremacy and xenophobia so normal that nazis felt comfortable coming out into public without masks to beat up and kill people. We can start worrying about whether “conservative viewpoints” are being squashed without reason when lives aren’t at stake and we don’t have a president who encourages violence, racism, and xenophobia.
If you are still concerned with protecting the people who are highly complicit or directly responsible for the rise of the alt-right (let’s be real, most of us were at the very least naively complicit in some way) on any level, then you need to truly evaluate whose lives are a priority for you. This is not a morally gray situation. There are people standing up to white supremacy, there are people protecting or sympathizing with white supremacists, and there are the white supremacists themselves. At what point do you decide not to be one of the latter groups? When are you going to stop worrying about the people who are fine with killing your friends and family? If you are not fully invested in fighting nazism at every level now, will you ever reach that point? And if you won’t ever reach that point, who are you really looking out for?