How Can We Effectively Respond to this Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist Garbage?

In light of this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, I find it necessary to revisit the topic I addressed last weekend.  Like many Americans, I am horrified by the recent rise in white supremacist, neo-Nazi activity in the US.  Many people smarter than me have written eloquent pieces about what happened this weekend, and I do not pretend to have anything new or particularly insightful to say.  In case there is any doubt, let me be clear where I stand:  Hating, discriminating against, or threatening anyone on account of their race, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, or gender is despicable and unacceptable.  Human is human, period.

I used to think that we as a culture had moved beyond this divide.  Fifteen years ago, I naively thought it beyond debate that racism was unequivocally wrong.  I knew individual people still harbored racist views, but I thought they were a small minority.  I thought that those hateful ideas, which were no longer socially acceptable, would eventually die off.  I am no longer so naive.

The question now becomes, what can I do about it?  And the honest answer is, I don’t know.  I feel helpless.  Rebecca, I don’t have any good advice to give you.  I don’t know how you can begin to explain this hatred, vitriol, and violence to your children.  At times, I question the wisdom of my choice to willingly bring a child into this world.  My only hope is that I can raise him to be loving, brave, and compassionate, so that he may make this world a better place.

Since yesterday, I’ve read a number of essays and blog posts telling me what I, a white person, should be doing right now.  They all gave essentially the same directives: make it known that you do not support hate, attend a vigil, call out racism in your own community, and donate to various legal funds.  But all of that seems inadequate to me.  I have been calling out racism in my family and community since I was a kid.  I’m not convinced it’s ever done anything.  The people I’ve engaged or confronted usually stopped spouting hateful rhetoric around me, but I’m sure they just redirected that rhetoric to a more sympathetic audience.

As a lawyer, I believe in the power of persuasion, but some people, on some topics, are simply unpersuadable.  The fact is, we cannot control the minds of others.  There are people intent on committing acts of violence who will not be deterred.  These are the people who scare me.  No amount of logic, no passing of laws, no threat of legal justice will change the minds of such people.  Once their minds have been filled with hateful ideas, what can be done?

The only thing I know how to do is to continue to live in accord with my own values.  So, yes, I will continue to push back when people make racist or bigoted statements in my presence.  I will try even harder to help my disadvantaged and targeted fellow citizens as best I am able, to treat them with dignity and compassion and as the worthy humans they are, and to listen to them without judgment or interjection.  I will try to maintain a heightened awareness of my own privilege.  I will not succumb to hate.

For my own sake, for the sake of the child I am carrying, I have to believe that there is more good in this world than evil.  Though it seems insufficient, I will say it again:  Hate is not welcome here.  Only love can save us.

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