On August 12, 2017, a white supremacist at a racist rally in Charlottesville, VA mowed down a group of protesters with his car, killing one and injuring 19 more. Against my better judgment, I started reading comments on news articles about the events there this weekend, and I’ve seen repeated whataboutisms popping up all over the place. I keep finding myself saying “No.” No, no, no. Just no.
No. A white pride event is not the same as a black pride event. One group is the historical oppressor, the other is the historically oppressed. We are racial equals, yes, but there is no equivalency in our racial experiences. Black pride is a reaction to oppression, a lifting up of a people who have repeatedly been pushed down for generations. White pride is an attempt to remain on top, to maintain the power and privilege that has enabled that oppression. Not even close to the same thing.
No. White nationalism is not different than flat out racism. White nationalism is blatant racism and there’s no point in claiming it’s not. White nationalists believe that America should remain a white majority nation. They don’t believe in the mixing of the races. They say all kinds of things to wrap their racism in some kind of egalitarian language, but make no mistake, they are white supremacist racists through and through. Those ridiculous tiki torches send a message, a deliberate nod to the torches of KKK rallies. There’s no sugarcoating this ugly display of racism.
No. The events of today are not about free speech. Yes, people in America have the right to peaceably assemble without the government shutting them down, even those who say ugly things. But we do not have the right to have our speech and our assembly not challenged by others exercising their right to free speech and assembly as well. If you’re gathering to celebrate hate, you’re going to be met with those gathering to protest that. That IS free speech being exercised.
No. The fact that things turned violent today does not make all parties equally responsible. White nationalists are marching for something that is so loathsome that we’ve created laws to try to mitigate the effects of it. They are advocating for an America that is the antithesis of what this country holds as its fundamental ideal—E pluribus unum, “Out of many, one.” They are literally saying that a large percentage of Americans don’t have a place here because of their ethnicity. They are anti-American in every way.
Violence is wrong, but let’s not pretend that the primary group gathering here is a peaceful entity. Their words are the stuff of terrorism. Their beliefs are the stuff of terrorism. They are terrorizing Americans, period.
No. The counter protesters are not simply intolerant of other viewpoints. Blatant racism is not “another viewpoint.” It’s disgusting and wrong and something no American should accept. None of us should tolerate injustice, even—or perhaps especially—when it tries to dress itself as merely a “different viewpoint.” Imagine saying that ISIL simply have a different viewpoint about their role in the world. When “different viewpoints” are proven through historical evidence to be dangerous, they need to be confronted.
Racism is dangerous. White supremacy is dangerous. White nationalism is dangerous. History has proven this over and over. It’s not okay to pretend that any of this is benign.
No. There is no gray area here. I’m someone who sees all sides of almost every argument, but some things are clearly black and white. Racism is wrong and dangerous. White nationalism IS racism, and therefore IS wrong and dangerous and MUST be shut down.
No. This post doesn’t mean I feel guilty for being white. I do feel ashamed of what is being done in the name of my ethnicity. I feel embarrassed that our history books have been so whitewashed that I’ve had to consciously dismantle much of my education to uncover the truth. I feel frustrated that more white people don’t see racism for what has been and for what it is. I feel strongly convicted in my quest to help uproot racism even when it’s uncomfortable and hard. I feel awed by the strength and resilience people of color in my country have consistently exercised.
But guilty? No. Guilt is wasted energy and “white guilt” is a phrase intended to shut down needed conversations about white supremacy. Not having it.
No. Racism doesn’t go away by ignoring it. Racism doesn’t end through colorblindness. Racism won’t magically disappear if I as an individual treat everyone as equals and raise my kids to do the same. Fighting racism requires reeducating ourselves as to the reality of our history and the psychological ramifications of centuries of institutionalized white supremacy. And once you start down that road, you realize it requires a deep dive into dark waters that many white Americans either don’t know exist or willfully turn away from.
No, I’m not an expert on racism by any means, but I’m learning. I’m diving in and making repeated attempts to describe what I see down below, even when people insist that it’s all myth and fiction. I try to support my friends and family of color who have been doing this work far longer in far deeper waters than I’ll ever see. I’m listening and learning as I descend. It’s hard work. My lungs aren’t conditioned for it, having always lived above the surface. So I do what I can and push myself further even when it’s uncomfortable.
No, it’s not enough. It won’t be enough until we don’t see fear and pain in our black and brown brothers’ and sisters’ eyes. It won’t be enough until we attain both justice and unity. We have a long way to go, and we start here today by saying no to obvious manifestations of racism without caveats, justifications, or devil’s advocacy.
No. Nope. Nope. Nope. Not on our soil. Not in our home. Just no.