I almost didn’t write this post.
The last thing anyone wants to read more about is Charlottesville, I told myself. Honestly, the last thing I want to talk about is Charlottesville. It’s depressing, infuriating, difficult to swallow. And even harder to process. It’s hard to believe that in 2017, our “melting pot” of a country is still subject to racism, sexism, and religious intolerance… Everywhere I look, I’m met with a constant reminder of the hate that my fellow Americans are capable of. And frankly, I’m sick of wading in the aftermath.
But as soon as the thought entered my brain, it was replaced by a second thought: Hold up. That is your privilege talking.
Sure, I have the power to block out the noise whenever I want; to turn down the volume on what displeases me and go about my daily life in peace. But does that mean that I should? Does my sense of security as a non-victim in the horrific events of the past week mean I get to simply shout from the proverbial rooftops “That’s not me!”—which is essentially no better than claiming neutrality—and detach myself from the conflict altogether? For some, silence isn’t an option.
But I’m not the bad guy. You know I don’t support that.
Here’s the thing: If your first reaction is to defend yourself in all of this, you’re missing the point. That kind of self-absorbed thinking is irresponsible at best. At worst, dangerous. While I was lucky enough to be born into a society that historically favors the color of my skin, I am not without moral responsibility. Responsibility to stand up for justice and speak out against evil; to lift up the voices of those that continue to go unheard; to criticize an attitude of indifference in both myself and in others. And in this case, inaction might as well be indifference.
This is no time to be tepid. What happened in Charlottesville last Saturday affects us all. We are one society, one people. And we can either come together as such, in outspoken solidarity with our brothers and sisters of color, or sit comfortably in our feigned ignorance of the oppression they still face. We can choose to greet the bigotry, prejudice, and insolence with silence; or we can take a good hard look at the troubling world we’ve created and choose to do something about it.
You might be thinking, but what? What can I say or do that somebody else hasn’t already said or done? How can I make the lives of those around me—especially those who feel heaviest the weight of discrimination—better, safer, happier, easier?
This is the question that keeps me up at night.
At Sunday mass, the priest of my local parish advised starting with our own circle of influence. We might not be able to change the world over night, but we can make a difference where it counts: in our homes, our communities.
Here are just a few simple ways you can fight against inequality and promote peace in your own neighborhood:
- Start a conversation about the harmful effects of white nationalism. Call out friends, family members, and coworkers on (intentional or unintentional) prejudices of any kind. Encourage diversity in whatever way you can.
- Contact your representatives to voice your concerns over the violence in Charlottesville—as well as any injustice you witness in your own city.
- Reach out to your neighbors of color. Let them know you are here for them in love and support. Listen to what they have to say, respond to their needs.
- Donate to the Stop Hate Project or to help the counter-protestors injured during the Charlottesville rally.
- Search by zip code to find a support event near you. (For those of you in the Dallas area, there’s a peaceful rally planned for Saturday, August 19 at City Hall.)
- Pray for an end to hateful ideology, both in our country and around the world.
This may not seem like much, given the magnitude of the situation. But this is what I have control over in my own life; it’s what I can do right now. And every day, I’ll strive to do more. Because as long as the repulsive notion of white supremacy exists in our society, there is more to be done. Let’s do it together.
Photo by Kayle Kaupanger.