By Jennifer Epps-Addison / @jeppsaddison
Radicalized white men are on a reign of terror, and I’m not just talking about the tiki-torch terrorists in Charlottesville. I’m talking about the white men who are threatening our health care, our schools, our communities, our institutions, and our families through their callous and self-serving policies. Hoods have been replaced by pinstripe suits.
To be clear, hate incidents and crimes have been on the rise in the United States since the explosion of Donald Trump onto the national stage. It would be unwise for any of us to ignore the very real threat a social movement of Nazi-sympathizing white nationalists poses to our country. Especially when it’s dressed up as economic populism, while actually making things worse for many struggling white communities across America. When the promised recovery fails to come, these communities will be looking for a villain and if we don’t do something drastic now, Donald Trump will be more than willing to lay blame at the feet of people of color and immigrants.
Without a doubt, this President has emboldened violent racists who feel protected by the fact that there are white supremacists running roughshod within the White House and federal government. While it’s easy to minimize what’s at stake here and to poke fun at socially awkward seemingly isolated actors, we should be all be extremely concerned at the attempts to coordinate a unified political agenda amongst various white supremacists factions. Regardless of what you’ve read in the papers, we are witnessing a white nationalist movement that wants to contest for power and dominance in America, not individuals who just want to preserve their heritage.
These men were not lone wolves, they were organized and radicalized online, by folks like Steve Bannon who infiltrated our government. Even as some of the worst offenders are on their way out of the White House, we must vigilantly remember that it isn’t their marching or even their violent actions that make these racists dangerous, but rather their proximity to the powerful protection of this administration, of numerous institutions and their friends and families back home. Only a handful of white supremacists in Charlottesville were arrested or faced other consequences for their actions, the majority did not. Instead, when they went home they integrated right back into their community and daily life. A terrifyingly hard truth for many of us to swallow.
For too long, progressives have tried to minimize race in the hopes of achieving broad unity. Meanwhile people like Donald Trump put race directly at the center of their strategy, using it as a compelling weapon. If we are going to ever move America forward from the racist hamster wheel we’ve been spinning on, we must first be committed to confronting white supremacy on all fronts.
The acts of terror committed in Charlottesville became just the latest alarming reminder of the transformative work needed to heal the racial divide of our country, and of the incredible amount people are willing to sacrifice to uproot racism and the false doctrine of white supremacy. For many people in this country, Charlottesville was the moment when they woke up to the very real and dangerous threat white supremacy poses to our country.
Because for tens of millions of others this is nothing new. From the genocide of indigenous people to the enslavement of millions and lynching to segregation and Jim Crow laws to the murder of unarmed black people by the police, we have been struggling with and responding to this deadly legacy for generations.
If you want to confront white supremacy, you have to understand how it shows up in society. Spoiler alert: the answer is everywhere. Which is exactly why we are fighting to dismantle it.
We know that it didn't start with Trump, but rather white supremacy is deeply embedded in the institutional fabric and policies of this country. Throughout history, it has changed its face —from white KKK robes and burning crosses to white polo-shirts and tiki torches today— but the ultimate goals of white supremacy remain the same; fear, terror and domination.
It’s not enough to call out white supremacy, if politicians continue to advance its goals through public policy. As powerful a step as it might be, removing confederate monuments won’t be enough to dismantle white supremacy. Dismantling white supremacy requires a radical transformation in how we love and care for each other as a nation.
This means having the courage to talk to our families and neighbors about white supremacy. This means pushing local elected officials to divest from racist police systems and to invest in safety nets including affordable housing, healthcare and education instead —things that truly makes our communities safe. This means calling out Trump’s bigoted policies and his corporate backers of hate every step of the way.
If at this point you are silent, then you are complicit. Heather Heyer, before being killed by a white supremacist said, “If you are not enraged, you are not paying attention.” She was right, for course, but in the wake of her death, it’s time to go beyond being enraged and to make the commitment to be proactive and take action.
This is a critical moment in the country’s history. Many of us often have grown up thinking of what we would do if we were in the middle of the civil rights movement or if we were in the middle of World War II as the Nazis were preparing for mass extermination. I think this is the moment where we are living with that reality, that potential every single day.
Stepping up means being willing to put our bodies on the line for freedom. We must be willing to confront white supremacy not just on social media, but in person wherever it takes root. That’s why we at the Center for Popular Democracy along with other racial justice organizations such as Working Families Party, Color of Change, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), and the Women’s March, are marching together over 100 miles in the March to Confront White Supremacy: from Charlottesville to D.C (#CVille2DC). We are asking for you to join us.
This march is a call to action to people across the country to get off the sidelines, take a stance, and fight for their values. These brave marchers have put their bodies on the line hoping to shine a spotlight on the fact that we all can give more to the fight for justice and freedom in this country.
As Selma and Stonewall did, I am hopeful our steps will take us further down the path to liberation. While there’s a lot of work to be done, our collective organizing has already proven successful. Together, we can build a true democracy and dismantle white supremacy in our society.
Here’s what you can do:
- Stand with us and pledge to take bold action against white supremacy.
- Join and march with us for equality and freedom at #CVille2DC
- Go to www.cville2dc.org to donate, follow and find other ways to support our efforts.