White people: It’s time to speak up or be complicit in terror
It’s America, 2017, and the hoods have come off.
The events in Charlottesville, VA, are heart wrenching. They’re also a telltale sign that America’s underlying foundation of white supremacy is bubbling to the surface in a violent, dangerous way.
These incidents were the latest in a string of brutal hate crimes to happen this year, and with every passing event, it’s more and more clear that the face of hate in America is white. That is why now, more than ever, it is hypercritical that everyone — but especially white people — take a stand against white supremacy. Anywhere and everywhere.
I’m white, and I’ve always known white supremacy is dangerous, but the utter disregard I’m seeing from other white people following this particular incident has me baffled. I’m used to seeing fellow white people disregard issues that don’t involve white people or their problems, but now, when there are literal Nazis celebrating whiteness with torches and flags in the streets, white silence seems a lot like complicity.
Citing general human decency and the whole, history-changing war we fought over Nazism, the events of Charlottesville should be sounding all of those pesky “hey, it’s fascism!” alarms. For many, it is. For the rest of you, it’s time to wake up.
It’s time for us white people come out of our privilege closets and speak out against these horrors and name the beast for what it is: white terror, perpetrated by homegrown white terrorists.
As someone who grew up in an overwhelmingly white, Christian conservative suburb, I feel the need to be alarmist about white supremacy because I come from a demographic where it thrives. My hometown boasts a shocking amount of confederate flags for a city in Southern California, and it’s white supremacist roots are deep and well-cited. I have often joked to people my hometown is so racist we have breakfast spot called the Kopper Kettle Kafe — conspicuously spelled with three K’s. Now, however, that doesn’t seem at all something to laugh at.
I don’t think I could describe the horrifying recognition of my own whiteness better than the way Katherine Fritz put it in her piece titled “My Fellow White Americans”:
These are people that look like my coworkers, my colleagues, my brothers, my cousins. People I know and love, who also have white skin and wear polo shirts.
Not being outraged right now is impossible for me to fathom. These people, the kind that brandish swastikas and beat and intimidate college students on their own campus, are being allowed to flourish in our society, and I for one, do not consent to it. And you shouldn’t either.
Moreover, it is no longer appropriate for white folks to claim a moderate or apolitical identity when confronted with the issue of white supremacy. White supremacy isn’t an uncomfortable dinner topic, it’s an actual movement that is growing in popularity and evolving with every passing second on the internet. I shouldn’t have to make a rational appeal to why it is a moral obligation to speak out against terror, yet here I am. That should say enough about white silence.
White supremacy is a virus and it cannot, under any circumstances, be tolerated.
We cannot ask those being directly oppressed by the words and actions of white terrorists to eradicate white terror by themselves. We cannot expect those who are being threatened with deportation, doxxing, and violence to dismantle white supremacy. It is not the fault of the oppressed that the oppressor is getting more bold in their oppressing.
White folks need to take up that burden: start policing white supremacy, shielding future generations from it, and shutting it down without apology. In other words, start making white supremacists afraid again.
With them or against them
Now I am not one to believe in ultimatums; I’ve always viewed life as more nuanced than that. But when it comes to white supremacy, there is absolutely no room for compromise. There is no utility in debating freedom of speech or empathizing with the “demonization of white men”: there is only the hard, ugly truth that we’re confronting a worldview that rejects the humanity of others on the sole basis of race. And that is not okay.
Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that white supremacy has always been an American value. White supremacy is the base ideology behind the systematic exploitation and destruction of Native American populations and the enslavement and forced migrations of Africans, both critical details in the construction of America. But in the last century, America has had to reconcile some of those beliefs. Confronted with encroaching fascism abroad and then civil rights activism at home, America was forced take a good long look at itself in the mirror and admit the simple, universal truth: racism is antithetical to democracy and there is no justification for it.
So, racism as a moral evil became part of the cultural lexicon. White supremacy continued to exist, but it was pushed to the shadows. Once openly expressed views became more subtly exercised under the guise of cultural attitudes and housing, economic, and criminal justice reforms. Hardly-defined white supremacy became a “fringe movement”, tracked as a terror organization by the FBI, and concluded to only be the ideology of backwoods white trash.
Fast forward to Trump’s election. White supremacy gets a pundit. Then, white supremacy gets a cabinet and an oval office. The so-called “silent majority” becomes emboldened to rear its ugly, MAGA-hat-wearing head.
Eight months into the Trump presidency, white supremacists are logging off of Twitter and lighting up cheap tiki torches and chanting literal Nazi slogans. They’re enacting the violence they’ve promised online. They’re a real, bonafide threat to racial justice, American politics, and more importantly, the real human lives they threaten.
The hypocrisy of white silence is that when any amount of violence is enacted in the name of blackness, Black Lives Matter activists are expected to denounce it — however fringe and unrelated that violence might be. Muslim Americans are not only expected to condemn Islamic terrorism when it happens, but are perceived as radical sympathizers if they do not.
The fact that white people can feel resolve in their silence as an apolitical mindset is a testament to the deeply pervasive psychological condition that is white privilege. Because it is not effecting you, because you are not espousing these ideas, you have no obligation to speak out against it. Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s bullshit.
Like many things in life, white supremacy isn’t going to simply go away if we ignore it long enough. Just like anti-blackness permeates decades after Jim Crow was abolished, or how colonialism still impacts the daily lives of Native Americans. White supremacy is apart of America’s framework, and now, it’s come home to roost.
We cannot stay silent. More people could die.
If you are white and don’t feel the need to speak out against white supremacy, then don’t for a second think that you are, in any way, a believer in human rights. Furthermore, if you are of the mindset that white supremacy is simply a show of free speech, I ask you to think about how freedom of speech to this degree ended up for Germany, circa 1933 and get back to me.
Whether or not white supremacy can be handled nonviolently, that is another conversation, and one that would require its own post. If you are of the mind that these conflicts should be resolved nonviolently, though, the first step is to dissent opinions that uphold white supremacy. Before those ideas are taken to the streets, they are discussed around dinner tables, in forums, at meetings. They live in our lives. Confront them.
And if standing against white supremacy in your own life is going to burn a couple bridges, I say light that match and walk the fuck away. You don’t need anyone in your life that thinks the validity of someone’s existence is up for debate.
Watching the events that transpired in VA shook me to my very core; I shed more than a few white tears to see Nazis marching openly in America on a Facebook live stream. Not just as a white person, not just a sworn ally to POC/indigenous communities, but as a citizen of this country and more importantly, as a human being. If you have any moral conscious, it should shake you too.
But let’s make one thing damn clear: I didn’t descend from a WWII vet to tolerate Nazism, I didn’t study history to idly stand by as the racist grip of fascism spreads through my peer groups. I might not be able to stop it singlehandedly, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to keep my head down while pure human evil carves itself into a political platform.
You have a voice. Now is the time to use it.