Having a Dog in the Fight:
An Average White Person’s Guide to Approaching Radical Racism
Recently I was having a lively exchange on my Facebook page about the events in Charlottesville, Va. — what to do about them and the respective groups that had been given a national stage fueled by a 24–7 news cycle.
This led to more dialogue about which actions were right, who was wrong, what protest means and an entire assortment of related conversations about what was happening before my very eyes in America.
I posted these two images, with my own thoughts about what this symbolizes for us in 2017 and beyond.
A high school friend who’d been traveling all weekend asked an honest question which I will paraphrase here.
His question represents a sentiment I hear by ordinary white people regularly, and it’s where our story begins.
Average White Question
“ I am 100% ignorant about what happened over the weekend. I literally don’t know a thing. Because I respect you, I would love to get your take on what exactly happened. Here is my question…Was this a civil protest or a violent protest?
Regardless, in your opinion, how is this more racist than a Black Lives Matter “demonstration” that ends with looting, violence and sheer disrespect for the police and society?
I don’t have a dog in the fight. I love anyone who shows me love in return.
But, I believe ‘racism’ has been reduced to one race against another; I don’t believe that’s fair.”
I should clarify a point here.
I too am an average white person.
I know a lot of other average white people. (That’s not to say I don’t know numerous POC. I also know lots of amazing people from other races, and, in fact, call many friends. Close friends.)
One of those friends prompted me to publicly post my response to my friend’s question. So that brings me to Medium tonight to recount it, and what it means to me.
I am not a scholarly expert on race relations. I am not entrenched in policy, protests or politics. I am an everyday person, doing my best to figure out where I fit into the narrative, and what I do with my voice.
Tonight I share it with you.
Average White Answer
Hi (Friend)! I am going to break up my responses per question.
Violence at Protest:
I was not at the protest myself, however from what I can gather, there was a protest about the removal of a Confederate statue, which then prompted a counter protest about anti-fascism (so envision 2 groups of people).
I think originally, neither protest was violent, but eventually the two groups were not separated by police and members of both protest groups resulted to some violence.
Most notably, a member of the original (Unite the Right) group plowed a car into a group of anti-protestors and killed someone. (I’m condensing this for brevity, not for a lack of sensitivity on the matter.)
This v. BLM:
I sort of love that you asked this because I see this false equivalence used a lot, particularly to justify remaining in a position of neutrality on situations of racial discord.
I need to break my response to this down into parts as well because the nuance matters.
1. Black Lives Matter is a group designed to advocate for the equal treatment of African-Americans in the United States and internationally.
Their mission is to shine a light on acts of injustice to blacks in our country and across the globe. Contrary to popular belief, BLM isn’t a group of “angry black men.” In fact, it was founded by three college-educated black women. I only add that point for other people reading this who always (incorrectly) assume that.
2. Transversely, the “groups” that organized this protest (Unite the Right), serve to collect specific hate groups for rallies that help protest the removal of Confederate monuments which they believe strip us of our nation’s past.
In this instance, they tapped groups representing: white nationalists, white supremacists and members of the Alt-Right.
These groups regularly (and publicly) post and advocate for “taking back the country” from minorities so whites can have their standing at the top where they belong. These screenshots I shared in the original post — this is the premise of the logic. [Our president has given us permission and isn’t condemning our behavior, so we must be doing nothing wrong.]
I also offer the definition of white supremacy below to further underscore their position on the matter.
3. Black Lives Matter wanting equal rights and fair treatment for blacks does not equal Unite the Right wanting whites to become a superior race.
(The complementary groups want to rid us of Jews, the LGBTQ community and anyone else who is not white.) Oh, and I should point out they sort of hate women too. (With the exception of those who are their breeders.) The woman they killed they labeled as “fat, childless burden on society because she wasn’t even a mother, and was going to live on the planet many more years leaching off the hard work of men.” I’m paraphrasing because their site was taken down by their host today, but that’s the gist.
(In short, if you ain’t white, male and cisgen, you are not supposed to be here and you’re taking up space.)
4. However, as not to be a person that stands on the rhetoric alone, I’m going to come out and publicly say that and protest that turns to violence is bad.
Not only is it bad for cities, their law enforcement agencies, their medical teams and first responders; it’s also bad for the brand and message that group was trying to promote.
Mostly we can see that in our exchange here.
If you hear about a BLM thing and hear it turned violent, you remember the violence. If I hear about a Nazi group plowing a car into a woman and then gleefully reporting on that, it’s all that sticks.
In the end what the basic message seems like from the outside looking in is PROTEST = BAD IDEA LED BY CRAZY FACTIONS.
This further perpetuates the idea that if we just stay out of the fray, the protests and the issues they are advocating for are not our problems because they don’t represent us.
Which brings me to my last point…
5. Since you and I are both white, we already have some upper-hand benefits in this division a lot of others don’t. Like you said, it can feel like “you don’t have a dog in this fight” because the radical ideas being covered in the media don’t represent how you treat others in real life.
But, that’s where I’m going to stop you and challenge you.
We actually have a huge dog in this fight.
We are fighting for:
➜ People of color (POC) to be treated like equals across the nation
➜ Police to be treated with respect and not fear for their lives and offer that same level of dignity to POC
➜ Lawful immigrants to be treated as if they belong when they’ve worked so hard to comply with our country’s rules just to get here
➜ Peaceful protest in a world where a militia of armed citizens show up to “protect the Nazis” (oh, yea, forgot that happened too)
I could go on, but the underpinning is that…
➜ We, as white, educated, loving and peaceful Americans have to say something.
➜ We have to stand for something.
➜ We cannot sit by and allow radicals (any radicals) to do what those screenshots say and “take over the country.”
If we truly believe that Americans have equal rights, we as the top of the power heap, have to protect those for everyone, not just ourselves. It matters now more than ever.
➜ We must SAY something when we hear a racist.
➜ We must DO something if we see an act of violence against another person.
➜We must SHOW UP for our brothers and sisters of color, our LGBTQ friends and our green card-carrying co-workers who earned their right to be here.
➜And lastly, we must VOTE for people who are not in bed with radicals.
There are numerous photos of the individual members of that Hitler-idolizing* rally group standing with their local Republican representatives. (*I use this phrase because they paid homage to Hitler with the Nazi salute throughout their march.)
If I was a conservative, I would be shouting from the rooftops how much this administration does not represent my values. I understand that the party has traditionally stood for many things people believe in — responsible fiscal policy, individual liberty, the right to bear arms, a robust military to protect our freedoms, etc.
But that historical narrative is all but engulfed in flames right now due to this secondary agenda.
If I were a Christian, I would do the same. The ideas of “Christianity” are being so closely woven with “white race dominance and superiority” right now it’s frightening. I know a whole lot of Christians who denounce what this administration has enlivened in hate groups since Nov. 9, 2016.
If speaking out against this behavior isn’t already happening for people in their daily lives, we must change that today.
We’re no longer in a world where we can stand by and wait for things to “just figure themselves out.” I don’t think that’s going to happen.
It’s we, the people, who are going to make change happen.
And we do it by promoting good, and squelching evil.
We do it by having a dog in the fight, and picking a side.
I, myself, want to be on the right side of this one in history. I’m sure you do too.