White Supremacy is Evil

I’ve always believed that language matters. For example, I never refer to someone who is here without documentation as an “illegal”. People cannot be illegal. Their political status may be undocumented. Their behavior may break laws. Their very existence, however, is not a crime. The language we use to describe people orders the way we view them. Language matters. 

Which is why so many people were upset this weekend when President Trump refused to decry the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. While people were armed and marching with nazi symbols and chanting nazi slogans, and after a man drove his car into a crowd of counter protestors, the best our president could say was:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.

Many sides?

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Image by Edu Bayer for The New York Times

When facing neo-nazis and white supremacists, our nation, and it’s leader, need to clearly say white supremacy is sin. Creating a false equivalence between nazis and the people who stood in opposition to them is verbal sleight of hand that immobilizes us and lets us pretend the problem isn’t as bad as it is.

President Trump’s response is true on one level. Yes, we decry violence on all sides. The imprecision of his language, however, has emboldened the people who marched in Charlottesville, chanting “blood and soil”.

David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK said this about the rally:

David Duke: Charlottesville protests about ‘fulfilling promises of Donald Trump’

 

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back, we’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we gotta do.”

After Trump’s “on both sides” comment, a neo-nazi website, The Daily Stormer, (which I won’t link because they are truly an abhorrent group saying evil things) wrote this:

“Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us.

He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate … on both sides!
So he implied the antifa are haters.

There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all.
He said he loves us all.”

Our president has not had difficulty in the past letting us know who he doesn’t like. From Meryl Streep to immigrants, he has used language that leaves no doubt. Now is the time for him to leave us no doubt on where he stands on this important issue, because his silence is emboldening terrorists to march down the street spewing hatred, and not even feeling the need to hide their identity.

I’m glad the White House press office has spoken against it. I’m glad Ivanka has. They don’t speak for him. This is the perfect time for him to go to the Twitter he loves so much and clearly say white supremacy is an evil sin. If these people aren’t marching for him, he needs to speak.

He also needs to change the policies his administration are enacting. For example, his administration in February started plans to rename the ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ program to ‘Countering Radical Islamic Extremism’, removing white nationalist hate groups from the spotlight.

In the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, the internet took it upon itself to identify the men who were carrying torches and marching. A few of those men have been misidentified, and the vigilante nature of it concerns me. It does not further justice to become the very hatred we abhor. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the men who marched should be protected from consequences of their actions.

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One young man, the same age as my sons, Peter Cvjetanovic, 20, traveled from Reno, NV to participate in the march. He claims he’s not the “angry racist” people see in the photos of him. He said, “I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture“. I pray he will be surrounded by people who will help him understand his language matters too. I hope he will learn that his culture is not being erased and that extending civil rights to people other than him won’t actually take civil rights away from him. I pray he will learn of the way he has been raised in a culture built on racism and that it is up to us to heal the wounds and repair the very fabric of our society.

Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas wrote an excellent article that I highly commend to all people, especially to my friends who think the violence in Charlottesville is just a Southern problem, or a fringe problem. She writes:

“If it wasn’t clear before, the events in Charlottesville have now made it abundantly clear—we have reached a decision point as a nation. We must decide whether we want to be a nation defined by its Anglo-Saxon myth of exceptionalism and white supremacist culture or one defined by its democratic rhetoric of being a nation of liberty and justice for all. This question is even more poignant for people of faith. For we must decide if we are a people committed to a vision of a country that reflects an “Anglo-Saxon” God or a God whose image is revealed through a racial/ethnic/religiously and culturally diverse humanity. If we are in fact committed to building a nation and being a people reflective of a God with a vision of justice and freedom for all, then we must do more than just counter-protest. Rather, we must proactively protest for the kind of nation and people we want to be.

Proactive protest first and foremost means telling the truth, even the harsh truth about who we are as a nation and a people. We continue to arrive at these “Make America Great Again,” moments of Anglo-Saxon chauvinistic violence because of America’s utter refusal to face the hard truths of it own story. James Baldwin is right, ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Until America faces the truth of itself, the violence of white supremacy in all of its expressions will continue to plague our nation and prevent us from ever living into the rhetoric of being a place where there is justice and liberty for all.”

Many of my friends have commented “this isn’t us”, in response to Charlottesville. I agree with that in an aspirational sense–this isn’t who we want to be. For Americans who face the dangers and violence of racism every day, however, this is exactly who we are. We must do better. White supremacy is sin, and this sin has infected our nation long enough.

Update: Monday afternoon, Aug 14, the president read this statement
“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

I am thankful he finally spoke and look forward to his firing of the people on his staff who traffic in the rhetoric and hateful language of the alt-right, white supremacist community.

 

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2 thoughts on “White Supremacy is Evil

  1. Don’t hold your breath waiting for him to fire his counselors that spew this ignorance, it will never happen.

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