We Must Face The Klan

Image credit: Kyem Asa Design, @kyemasaelijah

Recently, there have been several proposals of action by a united phalanx of black ministers, law enforcement (including black police chief and black sheriff), and city councilors (including Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy, also a black man) on how to counteract the groups of white nationalists visiting our city of Charlottesville. Suggestions for the Klan rally were to ignore them, or to “lock arms as a community in [a] designated area surrounding Justice Park and KKK, turn your back to them, and peacefully promote unity in our community”.

This idea has us incredibly uncomfortable.

It is ironic that Charlottesville’s community leaders propose a counter-protest that exemplifies precisely how the city has made itself a gathering ground for white nationalists. This town has become passively accepting of a racist and violent culture that always seemed to be underground and dormant, but has only now resurfaced and regained popularity.

I recall stories of sit-ins and how protesters sat at ‘whites-only’ counters, only to have sugar and scalding coffee poured over them. I remember documentary footage of whites jostling, poking and punching those protesters. Those same historical clippings show black boys and girls entering newly-integrated schools with quick steps, only to avoid the ire of white onlookers who screamed and spat at these enrollees. One friend’s father even tells me of a textbook hitting him in the back of the head, the same way Martin Luther King was struck by a rock while peacefully marching.

They had their backs turned then.

White people seem to be extremely comfortable with black folks asking for equal rights, but not necessarily demanding them. We as blacks are always being encouraged to humbly request those inalienable rights all human beings have, to suffer and endure the trials of Job and to be rewarded (sometimes posthumously) with a new crumb of acceptance and equality. We are always being told by smug liberal whites that this lack of confrontation is the ‘right way’; that if blacks just ignore and refute the problem as silly rabble-rousing, these racist forces will just go away and their hateful presence will not be felt or honored in the community.

But there is a problem, and a graver issue with this idea:

Their hateful presence IS already felt and honored in this community, and in this country.

White people, whether they deem themselves to be racist, non-racist, or anti-racist, contribute to racism when they choose to ignore it or remain clueless. They have more access and more lines of communications to white nationalists and to the Klan than black folks ever will. They converse with them at auto shops and in country clubs. They see them at family reunions, in their Facebook timelines, and over dinner tables. They say nothing. They may speak of sports and gloss over news stories, but they are not supporting people of color while in these closed circles; do NOT be fooled. These white people already have a closer connection to white nationalists and those affiliated with them than they will ever have with their Black counterparts. Blood is thicker than water.

We cannot have black community leaders capitulate to a white solution for these problems. The days when we bowed our heads and asked with trembling voices for our right to live comfortably in this country, without fear or intimidation, are dead and gone. Those days were followed by slaves who begged, ran away, revolted, and pleaded for God to take their bodies from a world where they worked from sunrise to sunset without an iota of thought for our well being.

We are not proposing we engage with the Klan, or any white nationalist group that decides to visit during the “Summer Of Hate”. This goes against our guiding principles, being that such an action would be non-restorative, and depleting to our cause. To violently respond to the Klan would play into the media’s hands perfectly. They, as they already have demonstrated in multiple iterations, would love to paint BLM as a violent, riotous organization. We would like more than anything to refuse them of that satisfaction.

However, we must face the Klan. We must show a demonstration of physical fortitude. We will NOT turn our backs on angered, violent individuals who come with weapons and armed rifles, and dream of hurting people of color on a daily basis. We must look these people in the eyes, through their sheets if they choose to don them, and show them that we are NOT apprehensive, we are NOT tolerant of their presence here, and we are NOT afraid of grown men who dress in costumes and prey on perceived weakness.

We can work with our community leaders on this, but they must fully understand the scope and magnitude of the actions they choose to undertake.

We must face the Klan, and all White nationalists who threaten our existence.

We will not ignore our oppressors.

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