Silence Is Not an Option

08/18/2017 05:23 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2017

We will not remain silent while American-born extremists attack our homeland, threatening our security and our fellow citizens with hatred, meanness and all forms of terrorist violence, including murder.

White supremacists are responsible for the horrible events that took place a week ago in Charlottesville, Virginia. The idea that other people who do not look like them are their equals, is an anathema to the “alt-right.” Today, American extremists like the KKK, have joined forces with Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups whose core belief is the racial superiority and entitlement of European (men). The diversity that has become the strength of our country is their enemy.

Patriotic Americans do not attack their fellow citizens because they do not agree with them. Our democracy allows for the peaceful transfer of power. Our Congress and judicial branches are designed to enable differences of opinion to be resolved peacefully and with justice through a measured discussion of merits that leads to laws, policies, and practices that benefit all Americans. What we are seeing today is not what the founding fathers intended. Our Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights clearly lay out a path to prevent the many ills of governing that have caused widespread misery, inequality, and tyranny across the centuries.

But, today in America, something is not working. What we are seeing is not normal. And – yes – this is a test of our democracy. Can our citizens recognize tyranny and oppression? Will they act to protect our institutions from being co-opted and distorted by individuals who do not respect our laws and values?

We can no longer view this as “normal” party politics. Democrats and Republicans have struggled over decades to differentiate themselves from each other and to garner followers and wield power. Much like siblings, our parties have taken on different characteristics to create identities. Over time, these identities have shifted. In the 1800s, The Republican Party was the Party of Lincoln and, before the Civil Rights Era, the Democrats were Dixiecrats, the Party of the South. Unfortunately, the question of race has been central to our divisions since our founding. Today, that division threatens to erupt, once again, into conflict welcomed by the alt-right.

It’s time for America to face up to its racist past. We need to decide, once and for all, whether “we the people” refers to all of us – or just to people in a certain race or economic class. We need to face up to the connection between racism and privilege and how it affects our policies on health, incarceration, immigration, and the environment. We also need to face up to how wealthy individuals and corporations currently tip the scales in policy decisions to favor their own interests over public welfare. It’s time for people of good will to come together to oppose racism and discuss and implement solutions that will create a peaceful, just and sustainable future. Silence is not an option.

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