A lot has been written and said about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. I was struck by a thought about it all while I took a long walk to visit an old friend today.
The narrative often begins by describing a planned “peaceful demonstration” by a group of neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, white supremacists and Klansmen. Klansmen. In 2017.
It usually continues, with self-righteous agreement all around, that they have a right to express themselves as protected by the Constitution of the United States.
That’s right, up to a point. Peaceful demonstration is a form of political speech, and it’s protected by amendment one of our Constitution. There’s just one problem with yesterday’s exercise of that right.
There is no such thing as a peaceful demonstration by white supremacists, by neo-Nazis, by neo-Confederates, or by the “Klan” who are bent on making our culture and our country look like their fever dreams, asserting the supremacy of white, privileged, usually Southern men. There is violence in their speech. It is on their flags, it is in their pointy Klan hats.
If you’re in any doubt about that ask a black man or woman, an older one if you can. Ask about their life – pre-1970s, when these pointy-hatted fools ran amok in the majority in the South and black families were segregated in their housing and their schooling in the North, too – and ask if they saw any inherent violence among the “peaceful demonstrators” before the crap hit the fan and a lunatic mowed down counter-demonstrators, killing a woman.
Then ask yourself if this is the bargain we thought we made when we elected the white supremacists’ validator and enabler last November. Did you get what you were looking for in that guy?
Someone I’ve recently met and am humbled to know wrote a comment about these events today. It’s written from a place of deep, first-hand knowledge that comes from putting oneself in immediate danger for the sake of others:
We just have to keep fighting the same battles over and over again. Some of us fight them as they erupt and many others of us fight them every hour of every day.
Did you notice who’s fighting the fight? Us, and us. There is only us. Us who are outraged occasionally, and us who live it every day, living in their skin, living in their faith, living in their gender, living their life.
Awakening comes in many forms. Sometimes it hits a white boy in the head during a long walk, after a thought got stuck in his head for a day, a day that began angry, ashamed, outraged. At other times it arrives when you learn the hard way that the universe isn’t wired the way you thought it was. When the backlash hits after a black man dared to be president of the United States for eight years.
Awakening is always good, always healthy. Sometimes it’s difficult. Imagine getting ‘woke’ the moment you pop into this world, and never being let to forget it.
What happened down the road from us Saturday was no different than many events in the 1950s and 60s, except the majority has changed. The guys in red and black and pointy hats, “sieg heiling” their way through Emancipation Park were in the minority this time.
Don’t let your awakening come when the majority swings the other way.