It’s easy for me, a white woman from a middle-class family, to say, “How can this be happening in 2017?” Once upon a time, I would have been able to ask that question with a straight face. Now, I know better.
Now I know Black Lives Matter.
I know that black people are incarcerated at a higher rate than white folks for similar crimes.
I know black people are victims of police shootings at a higher rate than white folks.
I know black students in public schools receive more and more severe discipline than white students for similar disturbances.
I know the Civil War happened 150+ years ago, but that there are many examples of laws put in place since then that are only slightly more subtle than Jim Crow laws.
I know people who respond to riots and protests with “hate breeds hate,” without thinking for a moment that standing up for yourself in the face of haters is something else altogether.
Looking back, I remember.
I remember the only black girl in my grade ran to me at recess in near tears in 2nd or 3rd grade. “Tell them I’m not black, Christy,” she said. My small self had a brain battle, because well … she was black. But she meant her skin. The shade of her skin was a beautiful brown. She didn’t want the others to call her black. I agreed that her skin was brown, but we called people with brown skin black. She seemed relieved to have someone on her side. Even then, in 2nd or 3rd grade, a young girl was bullied because of her skin.
I remember my dad making racist jokes that made me feel uncomfortable even when I was small.
Before I can remember, an uncle bought me a black baby doll to try to get a reaction out of my dad. From what I’ve heard, Dad didn’t react one way or the other but the story certainly says something about the uncle.
I remember my aunt (who was 3 years older than me) complaining about the black kids at her school with quite colorful language.
Looking back I realize my life has been permeated with messages of racism. I think I’m fortunate to have slipped through many of those messages, and I’ve been fighting the ones that have stuck. Or I look them in the face and address them once I realize they are there.
For the white folks reading this, we have to stand with our black brothers and sisters. And right now Jews and Muslims are under heavier attack than other folks. We must stand up for the human rights of all.
We must stand up in the face of intolerance and say, “You’re not welcome here.” If we see our friends and family (elected officials!) performing acts of racism, it is our responsibility to call them out on it.
In my mind, I keep equating the goings on in America right now to 1930’s Germany. From the bit I’ve read, many people weren’t overt supporters of Hitler. But they didn’t speak out against him either. They started wearing the pins and ostracizing their Jewish neighbors. It was subtle, and it wasn’t. They made excuses for what was going on. “Surely he won’t do THAT.” And then he did.
Much like what is going on with Trump. Some keep saying, “Surely he won’t do THAT.” But each time he does. It’s so fucking predictable already, and he still has supporters! How far does he need to go before people are willing to stand up to all of the -isms he stands for (and there are so many).
I want to be on the right side of history. Not because I’ll make it in the paper or history books. But because I care about humanity. I care about helping the world be a better place, not allowing folks to make a more terrible one. To do that? We need to stand up in the face of intolerance. This doesn’t require hate. It doesn’t require anger. It requires a sense of justice and action.
We must stand up in the face of intolerance! We must stand up to it when we see it in ourselves and in others. We must not let history repeat itself with concentration camps, genocide, and slavery.
We know what is right. History has shown us again and again. You are living it. Would you have been one of those people who wore a Nazi pin on their lapel to avoid confrontation? Or would you have been someone who joined the Resistance?
If you said the latter, join us. There are a million ways to fight intolerance (join the ACLU or any number of social justice organizations, join a local organization, make your own, etc…). Join us in our fight.
And if you are already in the trenches, thank you so much for shining the light and leading the way.
Love trumps hate. We are on the right side of history. But we need as many people as possible to fight intolerance.
What will you do to be on the right side of history?