A brief note for my fellow white people on what to do after Charlottesville

My previous post, stating in no uncertain terms that Nazis are bad and we should disavow them, went viral.

Here are, distilled down for your ease, a list of things that people — predominantly, I can safely assume, white people — have said about that.

– Barack Obama was a racist
– Hillary Clinton was a racist
– Hillary Clinton was just as bad
– Black people are racist
– You’re the real racist, I’m not a racist
– There’s always truth on both sides of the story
– You have to listen to all people to solve problems
– If you ignore a problem it will just go away
– The Irish had it worse than the slaves
– I don’t know why you’re bringing up sexism
– Black people voted for Trump too
– Black people set things on fire too
– Black people riot in the streets all the time
– Michael Brown lunged for a cop’s gun
– It’s not like really about Jewish people
– You’re a liberal who hates freedom of speech
– You’re race-baiting
– You should die already
– I’m not like those other “bad” white people 

I put the last one in bold because it’s the one I want to briefly talk about.

Hey. Friends. Addressing this part directly to other white folks. Hey, there. Hello.

When I say that “Nazis are bad,” I’m not actually calling YOU a Nazi. Unless you personally have worn a swastika, marched through the streets with torches, or run a vehicle over a group of counter-protestors, you’re fine. Sit down.

What I am saying is that white people need to wake up to what’s happening in this country. And the first way we can determine the root cause of this is to check your reflexes.

Remember that test that the doctors did at your physical? They’d hit your knee with the little hammer? Let’s give it a shot.

Fellow white people: I think Nazis are bad. Respond!

If you said anything other than, “Yes, I also think Nazis are bad” and you didn’t end the sentence with the word “BUT…” … you can skip ahead a few sentences.

If you DID feel the need to equivocate that statement — ask yourself why.

If you reflexively felt the need to add “But I’m not one of them! ” or “But all Trump voters aren’t Nazis” or “But there’s not very many real white supremacists out there” or “But Hillary was bad too” or “But if we ignore them they’ll go away” or any of the other “BUT”s out there…. stop. Take a deep breath. Look in the mirror and repeat after me.

“I think Nazis are bad” is the easiest thing in the world to say.

It’s a very low bar to hurdle. It’s why a lot of people are angry at the President of the United States for not being able to clear even that.

Without equivocating, simply say “I think Nazis are bad.” That’s it. We all know that not all white people are Nazis. If you have to say it, ask yourself why it’s so important that you be separated from them. (If you’ve ever called upon, say, Muslims to “disavow terrorism,” maybe you understand now that it doesn’t feel good to be lumped into a category of people based on the color of your skin and the volume of bad apples).

Now. Moving to the next step. Everything sure seems like it’s on fire right now, huh? And I’m a good white person who doesn’t like Nazis. What do we do now?

You say something about it. Your social media page is a good place to start.

You feel all that angst and agita about not wanting to be perceived as a “slacktivist?” That if you “do this wrong,” other people will be angry with you? That whatever you say, it won’t be enough, it won’t make a difference, no one cares what’s said on social media anyway, that your space is mostly just puppies and pictures of your kids and people might unfriend you?

You literally just have to say “Nazis are bad.” That’s it. That’s all you have to say. Or “Black Lives Matter,” or “Racism is evil and shouldn’t be tolerated,” or any number of statements that are distilled down to their essence.

You don’t have to get into why you feel the way you feel, unless you think it will help others, specifically others in your circles who could benefit from your perspective. (It’s a good idea to think about helping others with your words, rather than yourself). And you certainly don’t want to say things that require other people to do the work of comforting YOU and centering YOUR feelings about this. Keep it focused on those people who are actually impacted by the ugliness of racism, anti-semitism, anti-immigration, misogyny, and any of the other grab-bag of ugliness unleashed into the world.

But posting things on the internet does nothing! Bullshit. A culture war is brewing there and has been for some time now. Those assholes waving torches in Charlottesville were, less than ten years ago, dorks who met on a site called 4chan to talk about anime and how they were bad at talking to women. This is literally what happened. The online radicalization of young men is real, it is important, and it has to be combatted.

And those assholes in Charlottesville? They were seduced by people on the internet who appealed to their need to be blameless. Their need for things that are going wrong in their own lives to be someone else’s fault.

For every one of those assholes — and just to clear this point up, there are a lot more of them than just the ones you’ve now seen on TV — there are a bunch more well-intentioned white people who just need to be reminded of their need to be good. To be moral. To be on the right side of history.

Fight that fight on the internet, and lead by reminding others of the importance of being good. Call our your cousin with the cherry-picked meme about black-on-black crime statistics. Remind your aunt that, hey, our family came from Ellis Island, and it’s patriotic to extend that same courtesy to those in need. Check your sources before you post, so that you are only offering credible information. Tell your family members and extended circles and coworkers that you love them, but they are wrong to discriminate against others, to show bias against others, or to become hostile when someone points out that their whiteness might have led to some advantages in their life. Remind them that no one is asking them to feel guilty for being white. (That’s such a crock of myth, by the way. Not one person of color has ever asked me to apologize for being white. That’s just not a thing). Being aware that your life has advantages based on your skin color, and you believe that all people should be treated equally, is just not that radical of a position to take, although it’s being treated as such. So get out there and remind others that “all people are created equal” is patriotic as fuck, and it extends to immigrants and women and Jews and Muslims and the disabled and trans folks and every-body-god-damned-else.

Can I also still post pictures of my puppies and my kids? HELL YES. This is the whole point: that others in your world see you as fully human, and a full human being with a kickass recipe for crockpot pineapple barbecue chicken who ALSO thinks white supremacy is scary as shit and Nazis are bad. Be a fully dimensional person who is aware of, and actively convincing others, of those truths.

But I’m white! Shouldn’t I be amplifying black/Jewish/immigrant/marginalized voices? Yes! You should! You should make sure to post those too. But change starts within our own communities. And we’re not going to do shit about solving hatred if we don’t start by saying “I am a white person/Republican/American who is not okay with these people representing me. I recognize that this kind of hatred has always been here, and I will do better to listen to those who were trying to warn me of its existence. I disavow this, and will do my best to take action moving forward.”

But some people might get mad at me because they see that I’m posting on the internet but I’m not actually, I don’t know, attending meetings or organizing protests or getting arrested at my congressman’s office! If I’d been out on the front lines alone, I’d be mad too, wondering where the hell all of us white people have been. Let them be mad. It’s valid anger. But if that’s going to dissuade you from actually voicing your opinion on something important, and taking that first step towards confronting racism and prejudice, then you’re not strong enough to be on the front lines yet anyway. And most people understand that this takes time. If you’re voicing your opinion for the benefit of getting patted on the back by people of color, that’s pretty misguided. Voice your opinions because it’s the right thing to do. Especially when the opinion is “I think Nazis are bad.”

There are other next steps, and they’re really important too. Like: saying something about it in person. There are great blogs and resources that talk about how to do that effectively, and I’ll point you towards them.

Giving money is good. If you’ve got money to give, give it. (If you don’t, don’t waste time feeling guilty. Think about the other ways you can help in your own community instead). Look up local chapters of organizations that do good things. Here’s a good list of places. Here’s another, that includes action steps like calling your representatives and donating blood.

Going to a protest is good. Calling your representatives is good. Insisting on more diversity in your place of employment is good. Spending time reading up on actively anti-racist literature, or seeking to learn more about the history of institutionalized sexism/racism/discrimination is good. Reading this thing about how the internet emboldened hate is good. Becoming a source of knowledge for your community is good. Spending time with others in marginalized communities who need your help and support is good. Sending a care package to your friends who are struggling is good. Being on the front lines of a protest to shield people of color from police violence is good. All of those things are good.

But honestly…. a lot of you aren’t there yet. Hell, I’m not totally there yet. Okay. So I focused on the first one.

Say something about it.

Speak up. Speak up about what you believe in. Speak up when you see lengthy threads about local community issues. Speak up when that racist cartoon is shared. Speak up from behind your screen, when it happens, all the time. It’s so much easier than actually putting your body in physical danger. (And when you’re ready to do that, do that. People in marginalized communities have been shouldering that burden for waay too long). But for those of you who aren’t there yet…. find your voice first. And then use it for good.

But it isn’t enough! No. It’s not enough. It won’t be, for a very long time. It’s OK to say that out loud and know it to be true: “Whatever I am doing is not enough.” But it’s something. And you need to crawl before you can walk, which is a bummer, because recent current events require you to be in marathon condition. So get training.

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