On Saturday morning, I woke up to news of white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA (Alt-right is cute, but a misnomer). The protests stemmed from a series of decisions made by city leaders to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, a Confederate leader.
On Friday night, white men (only the “sexy” ones if reports about white nationalist websites instructing the disabled and overweight to stay home are true) wearing polo shirts and carrying tiki torches (!) gathered en masse in the hours before a planned march on Saturday afternoon.
The protests reminded me of stories from my parents’ and grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ childhoods. Childhood experiences that the Americans who claim that white supremacists are “now” gaining traction and should “now” be taken seriously have obviously never had. I do not know one Person of Color living in America who hasn’t been acutely aware of the never-ending danger of white supremacy.
When I heard politicians says this weekend’s protests are Donald Trump’s or Breitbart News’ fault, I wanted to say “Yea, but no.” This country has relied on racial terror to function for centuries.
Brown Americans and those who love them know the truth. Pitchforks, polo shirts, and threats—this is America.
Since the pilgrims did their first land grab, white people have benefited from policies that have made it easier for them to attain generational wealth, solid educations, and avoid imprisonment for major and minor crimes alike (see: Stanford Rapist; Eric Garner’s murderer; the “Affluenza Teen”, etc., etc., etc., ET CETERA). The preference—and deference—shown to white people in every aspect of US society has created generations of people who “won” respect, low-interest loans, and the benefit of the doubt simply for showing up and being white.
So, People of Color learned to run faster, jump higher, and think smarter. When complacency will almost surely guarantee that you stay at the bottom, you don’t really have much of a choice but to work twice as hard as the next person.
When white supremacists shouted “You will not replace us” this weekend, they laid bare their underlying mediocrity. American racial, religious, and ethnic diversity has rendered them obsolete relics of a bygone American model.
Only people of the most limited intelligence could have bought into the lie that something as arbitrary as skin color could make them inherently better than someone else.
Trump and his minions didn’t invent white racial victimhood, but they certainly fanned the flames. The snowflakes who are afraid of women and/or People of Color getting a fair shake at work, as well as the idiots who claim to be patriots while valorizing men who led an insurrection against the United States under a separatist flag, are the best and worst examples of mediocrity.
When artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, educators, lawyers, and doctors are afraid to emigrate to our cities and towns, America is impoverished. When millions of American kids are left to wallow in poorly staffed schools with overworked, exhausted, underpaid teachers and are unprepared for university or a trade as a result, America is impoverished. When we use “alternative facts” to claim that only white men have accomplished anything of note, the global perception of American intelligence is impoverished.
When people refuse to befriend, hire, or live near people who are racially different for fear it might dilute their own culture, it reads like a story about people who still believe the Earth is flat.
To be on the side of white people who claim that affirmative action is reverse racism, or that white culture is endangered by embracing a multitude of languages and people is to argue that white people cannot succeed unless all the chips are stacked in their favor.
But let’s not pretend that the more liberal among us aren’t wearing blinders, as well. I currently live in a hyper-liberal area of the Pacific Northwest where the concept of “Northwest Nice” is largely useless but referenced constantly. It’s a panacea that allows people to pretend as if the nameless, faceless, interchangeable white men who call me “nigger” every week are outliers and not part of my and other minorities’ everyday existence.
It is time for liberals to take a stand. Here’s the quick and dirty:
- Hire qualified people who add visual and intellectual diversity to your department.
- Don’t post about a protest you read about in The Atlantic. Organize a protest and create spaces for People of Color to shape and mold that protest.
- Don’t retweet. Create moments for your Anti-Fa actions to be retweeted.
- Be honest about how difficult it was for you to get your job and whether it you are holding POC (and especially Women of Color) to a different standard.
- Go to a meeting where you are the only white person and listen to the conversations folks there are having. KEEP GOING.
- Call out the hypocrisy in conversations that pathologize Black mothers whose children are arrested, but not mothers of white supremacists.
Most importantly, let your actions show that you stand with Americans of all Colors who are tired of white supremacist snowflakes dictating the (inter)national conversation about American race relations. POCs should not carry the burden of saving America from its sore losers alone.