What White People Will Tell Me About Charlottesville
I’m just going to skip straight to where I know this is headed.
White supremacists march in Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying flames and chanting slogans like “you will not replace us.”
I’ll write something about it. Like I’ve written about victims of police brutality, about Black children targeted by violence, about the Black folks murdered in their church in Charleston, South Carolina.
And then the comments will come in, some attached to names and Facebook pages, some hiding as anonymous eggs on Twitter.
Many of the comments will be so alike that they might as well come from a script, each with only slight variations as commenters seem to audition to be the one that keeps my attention.
The repetition tells me something about the gaps in white folks’ knowledge about racism in the US. Maybe if I show those gaps here, I won’t get so many of these comments this time around.
Based on the consistency of past performances, here are some of my predictions for how the script will go this time around, in conversations on the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville.
“I can’t believe this is happening.”
Really? I can. But what shouldn’t surprise me is that, while people of color have to be constantly aware of white supremacy in order to survive, blatant displays of racism can still shock white folks into realizing that bigotry is still alive and well in our country.
Every comment I get like this is a reminder of how much white supremacy is normalized and invisiblized around us.
“But aren’t you glad we have free speech?”
I can’t get over the entitlement of the idea that just because someone can do something, we shouldn’t be bothered if they do it.
Great, people are allowed to express their racist, Islamophobic, anti-semitic views in the streets. It’s the same freedom that allows Black Lives Matter activists to demonstrate, right?
Except that it’s clearly not the same — not when there’s such a stark difference in how law enforcement and the media respond to Black Lives Matter activists. Where are the tear gas canisters and rubber bullets?
“Trump is ruining our country.”
Hey. I’m mad as hell at Trump, too. But if you think white supremacist violence is new in the US, I’m going to need you to check out our history over the last couple of centuries or so.
When you realize this is not a new normal, but a continuation of our country’s foundation, you might have a whole new perspective on where all this bigotry comes from.
“Now, THIS is an issue that matters.”
That doesn’t mean I’m taking a break from issues that matter to write about trivial things. It means I’m connecting the dots.
If you’re not paying attention to how white supremacy stays afloat until the next big white supremacist rally makes the news, then you’re missing every moment when the seeds are planted for these rallies to take place.
“Not all white people.”
You want to tell me that you’re not like the white bigots marching in Charlottesville. That you’re not like the white people making these comments.
No, not all white people will recognize themselves in this brief sample of comments. But every white person could use some reflection on what they say about the society we’re living in.