With the events in Charlottesville unfolding this past weekend, we’re hearing many white people expressing the sentiment that this is not the real America and that they are shocked this could all be going down in 2017. The reality is that this absolutely IS the real America and has been since its inception. And if you are a person of color or anyone in the discriminatory gaze of Nazis, Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, you know very well how not shocking this is. It’s never stopped happening. The difference is that Trump’s America has emboldened what already existed to the point where there’s so little consequence to owning the Nazi moniker, that white men can walk around without hoods or disguise and with full confidence in their convictions.
If you’re a white person, it is up to you to carry the burden of fighting back. With calls for “unity,” and claims that there is equal violence “on all sides,” it’s even more important to have a no-tolerance policy for white supremacy and hate groups like we’re seeing in Charlottesville and beyond.
If you’re feeling helpless and don’t know what to do next (like I certainly do), here are some things you can do to fight white supremacy and Nazis…
Call them what they are
The term “Alt-Right” normalizes a group that are white supremacist hate and terror groups. Don’t call them that. It confuses the general public by making them think they are something far less sinister. Call them white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Nazis, etc. If you know specifically who they are (KKK or other groups), be specific. The groups of citizens asking for unity will have a harder time embracing and excusing extremism when it’s called by its actual name.
Recognize your role and that of others
Not all white supremacists are male. Not all white supremacists are white. Not all white supremacists are Christian. As this article states, “To overlook the comprehensive picture of who makes up the extreme right is to seriously underestimate its reach… There may be fewer of them marching with lit torches, but rest assured women are playing a powerful role wherever they can.”
The mostly white male group we saw marching with tiki torches certainly doesn’t live in a bubble. They are supported by others who excuse and enable their behavior. It is those people — wives, families, friends, the dissenter who remains silent — who are making up a huge portion of the extremists’ way of thinking. When the Nazi party was gaining power in the early 20th century, there were many bystanders who simply allowed it to progress without any pushback. If you remain silent, you too are complicit in its spread.
Support anti-facist and anti-hate groups
Here are some groups who support the fight against Nazis that need our help with financial burden and administrative support. By focusing some of your efforts and/or money into organizations, you can do more than just armchair activism. Sharing and communicating on social media and elsewhere is important, too, since it helps to change and form public opinion, but the hard work is being done on the ground by some of these organizations.
- The Southern Poverty Law Center
- Charlottesville NAACP (and your local NAACP)
- The Anti-Defamation League
- Color of Change
- UNIDOS US
- OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates
- MPower Change
Check all your sources
When you’re reading and sharing news, make sure you’re being diligent about sharing accurate sources. A big part of why we’re in this maelstrom of ignorance is the huge effect that false news from bad sources (and our own echo chambers) have done to public discourse. In an era of state-sponsored “news reports” coming straight from the White House, and propaganda radicalizing vulnerable minds daily, it’s up to us to keep our own newsfeeds as clear of biased, inaccurate, and hyper-partisan news as possible. The Center for Public Integrity is one non-partisan, non-profit organization working to keep the media accountable for its own integrity. Feel free to add them to you support list as well.
Understand what free speech means
The response to calling out hate speech often involves how it’s supposedly “suppressing free speech.” These groups threaten and intimidate those who want to prevent them from speaking in an effort to use free speech as their leverage. Freedom of speech and expression in America is vital to the core of our rights, but it does not prevent private citizens, companies, and organizations from taking action against those ideas and the people spreading them. There is some speech that is not protected by the First Amendment which includes obscenity, defamation, true threats, and incitement to lawless action. If one group doesn’t want the ideas of another to become more prominent, they have every right to counter-protest and take action to stop that rhetoric.
Make sure that white supremacists are unmasked and called out for their stances (which they have a right to express, barring those limitations), and let them deal with the consequences that happen because of it.
Boycott and demonstrate if you are able
When you are given an opportunity to speak out, take it, or make your own opportunity. Check your local Meetup groups, your local Indivisible chapter, #KnockEveryDoor, The Pussyhat Project, etc. to find marches, meetings, and demonstrations.
The Women’s March and the airport demonstrations against the Muslim ban were two recent examples that demonstrably showed the strength of protest. Many congresspeople went on record to claim that they were personally swayed and pressured by the protests. We know they work, even if they don’t feel like they do at the time. Demonstrating in protest affects measurable change.
Educate if you have an audience
If you are an educator or have a platform to educate anyone, use that platform to inform others of the history of racism and discrimination. We seemed doomed to repeat it, but we don’t have to.
Here is a great resource for educators, teachers, and parents who want help talking about this movement and its consequences with children and young adults. The Anti-Defamation League also has a great summary of how to contexualize the events and give it historical context.
Run for office or support someone
If you can’t run for office yourself (and you should consider it!), support those who match your values and try to avoid dividing up your side any more than it already is. As a party, the Democrats and the Left are divided among themselves and far weaker for it. Pushing back against division in Congress and in local jurisdictions is essential in making sure that down ballot candidates are strong and ready to take over vulnerable seats. Vote in your local elections.
Support criminal justice reform
Many groups and businesses are profiting from moving Black people through the criminal justice system which is directly tied to voter suppression. The war on drugs was one such movement that changed the face of criminal justice in terribly racist ways. Support organizations that want to end those incentives and make sure that we’re voting for representatives in politics who will make criminal justice reform (and anti-gerrymandering reform, while we’re at it) a priority. Then we can make sure that people of color and marginalized groups are able to take advantage of their right to vote and help prevent the growing tide of white supremacy.
Be angry and voice it to your own community
It’s hard, but essential, to change the hearts and minds of those in your family and communities who support or are indifferent to these hate groups. We may not be able to convince the whole world by ourselves, but we can try to convince those closest to us that these issues are real and important. Rural America’s feeling of being overlooked can cause sympathy towards these white supremacist groups. They hear rhetoric that backs up a lot of what they are feeling. Educate those you know as much as you can, even when it’s awkward. Even when it means that they have to choose you over their own discriminatory beliefs.
I’m personally tired of having to see people I know excuse violence, hatred, and discrimination with their votes and inaction. Voting for Trump and others who hold far-right beliefs may not make you racist in itself, but it certainly means that you accept and excuse it. And that’s enough to make me want to speak out.
As always, please keep the comments civil.