The rise in hateful rhetoric after the 2016 election, after Charlottesville, after some people created the idea of a ‘white genocide’ has people fearful that history is repeating itself. After the Charlottesville protest in August that resulted in the tragic death of Heather Heyers at the hand of a white supremacist, Trump took to the podium and had the gall to say that there was ‘violence on many sides.’
His statement emboldened and protected the racists who held up their Party City tiki torches that night. I was not surprised to hear him defend the ‘alt-right’. After all, they made up a large part of his voter population, there is no way he would condemn his own supporters.
However, I was surprised to see how many people were so passive about what had happened.
“They’re people too”
“You can’t fight hate with hate”
“You’re no better than them”
I have heard these three phrases so many times that they have become cliche at this point. In this situation, the “this isn’t us #bekind” mentality simply will not work.
Let’s remember World War II, let’s think back to how the last time Nazis were given a platform to speak, millions of people were tortured and killed. The best way to avoid further systematic violence is to make them uncomfortable with being openly racist.
We need to get comfortable with using strong language to condemn those who use hate speech. The people that marched at Charlottesville used violence and hatred to spread fear. One man went so far as to ram his car into a crowd of protesters, that is terrorism.
The terrorists at Charlottesville marched openly without fear or worry, they did not worry about their job; they didn’t worry about ruining their relationships; and they didn’t care about any possible repercussions.
When they faced the consequences, people all over the internet defended them. If you openly participate in a rally that promotes hate speech, then you should face the consequences. Freedom of speech means the government cannot throw you in jail for what you say, but nowhere does it say that private companies, individuals, or families cannot condemn you.
This isn’t simply about disagreeing with an opinion. This is being fundamentally against rhetoric that threatens the safety of millions of people. In Germany, Nazis are thrown in jail. They are ashamed of that part of their history, but they take responsibility for it.
Why can’t we as Americans take responsibility for our own racist history instead of pretending that Charlottesville was an isolated incident? There were rallies in Boston and Seattle and they have a rally planned in San Francisco. These rallies will only increase in number.
Saying ‘this isn’t us’ won’t solve anything. We have to own it. We are America and America was built on the backs of slaves, we are not proud of it and we are sorry. We are America and our police officers kill unarmed black men, and that has to change.
We are America and the terrorists at Charlottesville are not systematically disadvantaged, they are protesting for the right to keep those who are systematically disadvantaged in the same rut that they’ve been stuck in for hundreds of years.