I am a pacifist at heart. However, not all ideologies and opinions are equal and okay to freely express, and sometimes one must take a stand even if it means risking it all to fight against hateful ideologies such as neo-Nazism and white supremacy. I’d like to hope we can defeat such destructive ideologies, bills/laws, and actions with peaceful means, but I understand and respect where others, based on historical evidence, state that hateful ideology can only be stomped out with violence. I don’t have an answer to the question of violence, but I will talk today about where I stand and the roots of the problem we face today.
In our current climate, there is a growing number of people trying to make hate speech mainstream and okay to share and embody under the guise of “free speech.” But this is abhorrent and not okay as that hateful ideology results in violence and deaths. People’s lives are at stake here. I must fight on the side of love, so I have decided to speak up against those that seek to destroy others.
The following points should clarify what I mean before I dig into the concept of white supremacy and how it fuels the hateful ideology of neo-Nazism and alt-right white supremacists such as the Klu Klux Klan.
- Saying that Nazi and white supremacist ideology is hateful and should be stopped at any way possible is not me saying I wish all Nazis dead and that I hate all Nazis. These are not equivalent at all. I am saying that Nazi Ideology is dangerous and is hate speech.
- (Neo-) Nazi ideology (and its white supremacist roots) embodies the idea that there’s a “pure race” and “others should be killed or erased or oppressed into serving the pure.” There are many ways they may try to twist words to diguise it as palatable, but no matter the doublespeak, we cannot forget the root of Nazi and white supremacist ideology is based in ethnic/racial cleansing and genocide. Ethnic cleansing and genocide is a crime and requires justice not a free forum for folks to recruit others to join their cause. We must not normalize this ideology as this ideology is a crime against humanity.
- I will fight against Nazi and white supremacist ideology because it is the right thing to do. Such ideology is the anti-thesis of love. I live a life of love, thus I cannot sit idly by and not say something against destructive ideology that others are pushing to normalize and turn into law. Neutrality aids the oppressor. One cannot be neutral in situations like these.
- When I say “fight” I, personally, mean with words as I cannot physically fight anyone due to my health and how much violence triggers me. But I can write and speak, and use my words in ways to fight harmful and hateful ideology. I can provide emotionally support for those on the front lines of this fight.
I will stress this point in particular: fighting hateful ideology doesn’t mean I hate those who espouse this ideology. I am disgusted and horrified by their words and actions, but I do not hate people. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are infected with a dangerous ideology that has lied to them. It has stripped them from seeing the joy and love that is inherent in the beauty of our diversity, the beauty of our shared humanity, and the need for a more just and loving world, where all share rights and resources equitably and equally.
Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are trapped in thinking that if others gain rights then they lose their rights and power, that if others share resources then they lose access to resources, and that those who are not ethnically “pure” like them are not true human beings. That abhorrent ideology destroys others and it destroys them because it is based in hate and lies.
I don’t think I can cure them of it, but I can try to stop this ideology from spreading and stop this ideology from carrying out destruction by enshrining their hatred into laws and horrifying violence. How does one fight such ideology?
To begin, we got to start at our roots.
In bell hooks’ “Writing Beyond Race,” the second chapter discusses how white supremacy has been built into America from its inception and socialized into all of us from birth, thus all of us must contend with its devastating effects. She writes:
“If everyone in our society could face that white supremacist thinking is the underlying belief system informing nearly every aspect of this nation’s culture and habits of daily life, then all our discussions of race and racism would be based on a foundation of concrete reality. Everyone could move away from the us/them dichotomies which promote blame and prevent us all from assuming accountability for challenging and changing white supremacy. Unless we make a conscious effort to change thought and action by honestly naming all the myriad ways white supremacy impinges on daily life then we cannot shift from a politics of hate and create a new foundation based on a revolution of love.
A primary reason this nation refuses to offer an adequate political language to define racial politics lies with the insistence that this is the most democratic nation in the world, a place where freedom and justice for all is possible. Citizens of the United States had no difficulty naming the politics of white supremacy in South Africa because the extreme racial segregation and the concomitant violence deployed to protect the system of apartheid was overt and consciously supported by government and law makers. Here in the United States most folks want to believe the United States has never and does not currently have a politics of race based on the support and maintenance of racial apartheid.
Yet all children in this nation are inundated from birth on into adulthood with white supremacist thinking and practice. And it is a more insidious because it is often hidden socialization. The most powerful covert teacher of white supremacy is mass media.”
Due to Trump’s Administration and the events in Charlottesville, white supremacy has become more overt than covert, but is it enough for us to finally acknowledge we are all in this system? Acknowledgement isn’t enough. All of us must work to dismantle white supremacy in our thinking, our daily lives, our work, our government, our economic system, our mass media, and all other systems in which affect our lives.
Our nation has always been a harbor for white supremacy as it was built into our constitution, and although we’ve amended that constitution dozens of times, it cannot erase the roots — our Nation was not free for all where justice is possible for all — despite the best intentions of the “founding fathers.” Remember, the constitution originally allowed various rights to be granted only to white men, though as for who was allowed to be seen as white is rooted in white supremacy ideology. (Note further explanation would involve discussion that I will hand off to Angela Davis, bell hooks, and others far more qualified than myself. Seek out their essays to dig deeper into how white supremacy is codified and enforced.)
Thus, America never was free for all, and it certainly isn’t today. Folks of color have been declaring this truth for ages, but many white folk have refused to listen, and now Neo-Nazis are emboldened with Trump as their leader. This is not a surprise to anyone who understood the roots of this country and what we are up against.
But we can fix this. Angela Davis, bell hooks, and numerous other people of color have written about these topics and discussed in-depth solutions and theories on how to dismantle white supremacy within us, within our culture, and within our society’s systems and government. Read their words, listen to what they have to say, and recognize their leadership.
How can we implement what we learn?
By incorporating what we learn into our daily lives and adjusting our language and actions as needed.
This article gives some great tips on how to respond to the growing rise of hateful ideology as white supremacist becomes more overt: How White People Must Respond to the Disgusting Pathetic UnitetheRight rally in Charlottesville and Time for White Parents of White Kids to Bring the Resistance Home.
One of the tips involves calling-in (versus calling-out) people in your life whenever they say or do or support racist, sexist, homophobic, and/or transphobic actions and laws.
These conversations can be hard, yes, as most people tend toward the defensive, but there are ways to hold discussion in a way to break down those defensive walls. Again the leaders in this movement, especially bell hooks, has some great ideas on how to do this and I included the call-in and the tip article above to assist with this.
Another way is to show visually the ways white supremacy permeates our culture. Someone made a great graphic that focuses on racism in particular (if anyone knows who made it so I can give attribution, let me know!)
There is also the Racism scale to help people identify where they fall in the spectrum of racist/anti-racist behaviors — the far right side is terrorism and the far left side is abolitionist, and there are many categories between them based on words we say and behaviors we do and what we support. You can read about it here: Racism Scale.
To be transparent, I have a lot of unlearning to do myself from the socialization our culture has done to all of us from birth. I am still dismantling that socialization and conditioning. This is part of my fight against white supremacy in our culture, our government, our daily lives, and within myself.
The words I write here today will hopefully make it clear where I stand and illuminate the roots of Neo-Nazism in America. May folks read, dig deeper, and fight not only those that espouse the hateful ideology but also the conditioning society has done to us that allowed this ideology to fester.
Edited to include More resources for reading and understanding: Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves and SURJ Talking White Supremacy Flyer (a pdf with tips on how to have discussions).
Remember: We can fight this, and we can dismantle this and create a more loving, more equitable, more just, more sustainable, and more equal society for all, but we got to — especially white folks — recognize the role of white supremacy ideology within our daily lives, our words, and our ways of thinking. No one is immune, and we all got to detoxify ourselves and work toward liberation together. It will be hard, but nothing worth doing was ever easy.