Berkeley versus White Supremacy
As many of you know, wherever you live, the spate of white supremacist rallies that began with Charlottesville are coming to us in the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend: Saturday Aug 26th in Crissy Field, San Francisco, and Sunday Aug 27th in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park.
They see our Berkeley as “the most important battleground in the country.” They are calling their Berkeley event “No Marxism in America” — which is simply a cover-up for the same old racism and white supremacy.
What to do if you are one of the overwhelming majority of us here who abhor and reject the toxic views and terrorizing actions of these racist, antisemitic, homophobic, anti-immigrant, mysoginistic “patriots”?
Our local authorities struggle with free speech versus the goal of preventing violent confrontations, often advising us to just stay at home and ignore the provocation of these people.
Each of us struggles with our conscience.
Should I stay home so I don’t risk getting hurt, or does showing up to protest just add to the problem of possible violence, including on the part of counter-protesters who are not non-violent?
On the other hand, will I be able to live with myself if the moment came to be counted, on the most fundamental of moral issues, and I just cowered at home rather than taking a risk?
And so, with some friends, I have decided to throw in my lot with a group called “The Choral Majority”. We will join with a larger group called the Interfaith Coalition, and march from First Congregational Church Berkeley to Civic Park, singing old and new songs of protest.
Last night, we went to a non-violence training session at a small Pentecostal church. It was led by a man whose family had personally experienced murder by lynching and whose parents had come from the South to California in the 1940s to escape the Jim Crow South.
He said he was aware that, for many of us who are not black, the whole prospect of being assaulted by white supremacists is a new experience and a bit frightening. “But we’re used to it, he said.” We’ve had a lot of practice — 400 years of it. We’re not afraid, because we know we’re on the right side of history.”
There was a crowd of about 100 people there — a rainbow of races, ages and economic backgrounds. A love fest as we learned, hugged, practiced confrontation scenarios, and, above all, steeped ourselves in the vision and ethos of nonviolent direct action.
I’ve not done this since the days of the Civil Rights Movement. It feels like the right thing to do, though I’m a bit scared.
[This piece was originally written on August 24, 2017]