On Friday, several hundred white supremacists and nationalists (aka Nazis) marched through the streets of Charlottesville, VA, carrying torches and chanting, “White lives matter!,” “You will not replace us!,” and “Jews will not replace us!” The march was followed by a second rally on Saturday, this one attended by a self-proclaimed militia openly carrying semiautomatic rifles! (The police were outgunned and afraid to intervene.) The white supremacists were met by counter-protesters, and the Nazis, rather than remaining separate from the counter-protesters, as promised, immediately attacked them. The violence culminated when one of the nationalists drove his Dodge Charger directly into the protesters, killing one woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others. A few hours later, a helicopter monitoring the rally crashed, and two police officers died.
In the wake of this tragedy, many people have asked, “How did this happen?” They’ve lamented, “This isn’t the America I know!”
Listen, my friends–especially my white friends: the hatred that was unleashed this weekend did not happen in a vacuum. It did not begin when Donald Trump became president, though his presence in the White House and his failure to condemn these acts of terror have certainly emboldened it. No, these feelings of entitlement and superiority have their roots in the very foundation of this country, which was stolen from Indigenous peoples and built on the backs of slaves. The racist ideology that started the Civil War did not end in 1865. And if you haven’t seen it, it’s because you’ve benefited from a system that’s perpetuated it. Which means you’re part of the problem.
If we do not acknowledge our participation in this system, we are complicit in white supremacy. If we are silent in the face of casual racism and xenophobia, we are complicit. If we are not outraged about what it is happening, we are complicit. If we do not actively try to fix this, we are complicit.
If we want to change the system, white people must SPEAK UP. Please read the following resources for suggestions on how to get started:
- So You Want to Fight White Supremacy
- How White People Should Talk to Other White People about Charlottesville
- #YtScripts (tips for talking to white family members and friends)
- The Language of White Supremacy
- What is Whiteness?
- Taking up Space and Feeling Safe Again
- The Salem Witch Museum and Modern Witch Hunts (my podcast discussion about white supremacy and racism)
Don’t be complicit.