Thoughts After Charlottesville

After the Charlottesville incident this weekend, it is easy to denounce "Nazis" and "white supremacists" and think you're on the good side of things. That is missing the bigger picture.

People want to think "This is not who we are as Americans," but this is exactly who we are. White supremacy has been ingrained in American culture for centuries, before the Confederacy or the Nazis existed. The Charlottesville demonstrators didn't invent their racist ideology. They learned it from their parents and grandparents, from their friends, from the people in the towns where they grew up, from TV, books, and movies, and from their political leaders.

Most white nationalists don't attend rallies, fly Confederate flags, or tattoo swastikas on their bodies. They are your family, your friends, your coworkers. They are us.

Many white people think "Racism is terrible, but I'm not a racist, and my friends and family aren't racists, so it's not my fault, and there is nothing I need to do about it." But that's not true. The US is a racist society, and white people are complicit in the maintenance of white supremacy.

We live in an unfair and unjust society. It is broken, and we should all want to fix it. We all have work to do. Pointing fingers at "racists" accomplishes nothing.

Make fun of the tiki-torch terrorists in Virginia if you want, but if you really care about justice, work to tear down white supremacy where you can. Stop treating racism as somebody else's problem. Stop claiming white males face oppression. Stop laughing at racist jokes. Stop spreading lies about affirmative action. Stop excusing police brutality against minorities. Stop romanticizing the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. Confront your friends and relatives when they say awful things in private. Ask employers why they don't hire and promote more black people. Ask politicians what they are doing, and demand that they do more. March alongside people who should be treated as equals. Speak up.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in "Letter from Birmingham Jail", the real roadblock to progress is not the avowed racist; it is the "white moderate" who claims to want justice but wants change to be easy and gradual. We owe it to our fellow citizens to make things better now, without regard for how hard it might be for us.

© 2003-2023 Kristopher Johnson