We are living in rather interesting times. More white people than ever are willing to acknowledge that white supremacy is a very real concept. Our nation (and, frankly, Western civilization) was built on a foundation of white supremacy. Yet as we are all discussing and in some cases awakening to the toxicity of white supremacy, white nationalism is on the rise and it seems that no one is sure of how to proceed.
Lately over on the Black Girl in Maine Facebook page, I have started asking readers questions in hopes of moving people from learning and processing to taking tangible actions in the fight for racial justice. Specifically I asked “What if anything are you willing to give up to achieve racial equity” along with “When was the last time you discussed systemic racism with a fellow white person in person, not online?” I received a wide array of answers but one thing that has become clear is that reading and talking about racism while absolutely critical also requires moving white people into action.
This past weekend, Richard Spencer, the supposed darling of the alt-right (the friendly, newfangled name for white supremacists) who by the way was born in Boston, lead a large protest over the weekend in Charlottesville to protest plans for the removal of a Confederate monument.
Let me be clear though: This was no ordinary protest. This was a group of white people carrying torches (albeit tiki torches, guess they couldn’t get back in the way-way machine and get the 1960s-hate-style torches, so they had to settle on semi-kitschy substitutes) and chanting “You will not replace us” after Spencer kicked off the hatefest with a few words earlier in the day that included saying “What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced.”
A group of white people in 2017 dressed in non-threatening khakis and polos and Spencer in a rumpled and way-too-tight blazer (looking a bit like he’s been shopping AND partying with Steven Bannon) are running around carrying torches and demanding that they not be replaced? Make no mistake, this is not the noise of a few misplaced souls, this is what the klan looks like in 2017. Gone are the days of hiding under crisp white sheets. Nope, these miserable cretins are proud to let the world know exactly who they are and as we are learning in the aftermath of the elections, these folks are not alone. I repeat, these folks are not alone. The odds are extremely high that if you are a white person reading this, you know at least one person who holds similar views.
This means that now is the time to take action. Now is the time to move out of passivity and sharing memes and ask yourself, “What am I willing to do or even sacrifice to stop this tide of hate?”
I could recap but frankly there is no need for it. A quick Google search will tell you that since November 2016, hate crimes have increased all over the United States. And yet we feign ignorance when we hear about an event. The time for dismay is over, the time for hand-wringing and well-wishings is done. Especially with Trump in office. The hateful folks have no problem speaking up and being quite visible for what they believe in. But too often those who say they care about racial justice are immobilized by not wanting to get things wrong. OK. Sometimes, you will get it wrong. Chances are you will piss someone off very possibly even a person of color who doesn’t like your approach, since we ourselves are not a monolithic group. But fear of getting it wrong is not enough to merit being timid and sitting comfortably in the education zone. Because lack of action and failure to stand up to hate only allows the hateful to grow stronger, more determined, more bold and more numerous.
The education zone is a deceptively comfortable space that allows you to feel like you are making change. And yes, you are changing your worldview and that is important. But if you are a real ally, I need to see some of that change put into action, not just filling your head and elevating your thoughts and outlooks. To be honest, dismantling white supremacy requires real work with real steps. Real sacrifices, too.
Who do you employ? Where are you living? How are you supporting the work of people of color? Hell, are you just consuming the work of POC and not paying it forward even though you are aware of the very real economic barriers and gulfs that exist racially? These are just some of the questions that you have to start with and then once you answer them, make a plan for change.
Let me put this in perspective, if a nobody like Richard Spencer can feeling comfortable spewing his hateful views and suddenly command mainstream media attention for being such a wretched being, why can’t you stand up for what is right, put yourself on the line and do the same thing for racial justice?
Look, now is the time for white people who know how harmful white supremacy is (to all of us, not just people of color) to collect their fellow white people who are bent on destruction. To stand up and activate for the greater good of all.
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