This Is Exactly Who We Are

The popular hashtag #ThisIsNotUs shows America's inability to grapple with our ugly past.
08/13/2017 08:40 am ET Updated Aug 21, 2017
Chet Strange via Getty Images

#ThisIsNotUs trended mightily in the wake of last week’s protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, but don’t let the pundits, journalists and experts fool you. This is us! This is exactly who we are in 2017. I found it difficult to get my words together last night reflecting on the travesty of these protests. There were so many things that upset me I could write for days, but the things that angered me the most, the ones that had me staring at the ceiling last night wondering where on earth do we go from here are below, in order of hate magnitude.

Why They Protested

I have never understood the right’s obsession with the Confederacy. Over a major highway in a state I frequently travel, a giant confederate flag flies proudly. The state claims they can’t get the homeowner to remove it since it’s on private property, but I find that excuse laughable. The state has always been able to get property owners to do what they want, when they actually want something. As I drive down a road my taxpayer dollars pay for, I am reminded that the state I pay taxes in doesn’t give a damn if I am offended. And it’s not just that flag. There are monuments, schools, parks, and more, all bearing the name of confederates. The irony is clearly lost on these racists who claim the rest of us are snowflakes when they are willing to fight to keep their participation trophies.

So let me just recap, these people aren’t fighting for their equal rights, they aren’t fighting because they are marginalized, paid less, and hired less; they aren’t fighting because their voting rights have been denied; or because they are being discriminated against in banking, housing, and education. No. These people are fighting to keep a statue in a public park of a guy they couldn’t tell you three facts about except that he was a Confederate soldier.

Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I give you Exhibit A in White Privilege.

The Police Reaction

The Black Lives Matter movement just earned themselves a plethora of examples of unequal justice in these United States. If the Charottesville protest were a BLM movement, there would have been tanks, riot gear, tear gas, and multiple arrests of protestors and journalists. This isn’t hyperbole. The police have treated the BLM protests like a training mission for the next Afghanistan raid.

With the polo-wearing, Pier Import tiki torch-carrying, young white male protestors, they did everything but carry the signs for the protesters as to not aggravate their carpal tunnel. I’m not mad that the cops didn’t crack down on people within their rights to protest, I’m mad that the rest of us can’t be treated this way.

Take a look at this picture from the BLM movement where the police officers felt this young woman was such a danger to them that they had to come out in force to handcuff her, then compare it to the picture of these men with giant guns walking around like they’re extras in the next Terminator movie while the police don’t seem to be worried about their safety.

What these riots demonstrated to all people of color is that the excuse that police need to be better trained is a lie. Police clearly know how to deescalate when they want to. The question is how do we make them want to do so with the black community. Either way, never again will I believe the line that a police officer “feared for his life” as he rolled up on 12-year old Tamir Rice playing with a toy gun in a playground, and had to shoot him within seconds of arriving.

Police officers clearly weren’t afraid of these guys.

The Age of the Protesters

I grew up in the South, was bused to an all-white school, and oftentimes was the only black in my classrooms. I didn’t hang at the houses of my classmates but I considered them friends, until someone thought it was funny to write “N****r table” on the table where black people sat every day in the lunchroom. My daughter, conversely, grew up in a multicultural neighborhood and thought her generation was less racist than the ones before her ― until a kid on the bus told her to go back to the jungles of Africa.

While we may want to pretend that racism will die off when the older generation dies, it’s clearly not the case. If these protests have shown nothing else, they’ve demonstrated that racism is alive, well, and thriving in this country. The only thing that multiculturalism has done is given these people more targets for their hatred. So it’s not just blacks and Jews, its Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, gays and the transgendered. Their list keeps growing and they have been very successful in getting new recruits.

It may make it easier to sleep at night to tell yourself that this isn’t us ― this isn’t the United States of America; the melting pot; the place of freedom, liberty and justice for all. But that would be overlooking the majority of this country’s history. There was a time when white people held picnics as black people were hung from trees. The protests in Charlottesville over removing the monuments to those times are exactly who we are.