No Silence or Violence
“They crave silence or violence,” Susan Bro said in a recent interview. “They” are white nationalist groups, the folks who assembled Sunday for a “Unite the Right” rally in Washington, DC, on the one-year anniversary of their infamous gathering in Charlottesville, VA.
Charlottesville changed Susan Bro’s life. Her 32-year-old daughter, Heather Heyer, was killed there by a white nationalist using his car as a weapon against anti-racism demonstrators.
Rather than settling into anger and hate for those whose beliefs incited Heather’s murderer, Bro has channeled her grief into activism. She says, “…if we don’t focus on fixing the issues that caused this in the first place, the racial divide in our country, then we’re going to be right back at Charlottesville in no time flat.”
I agree. To address the root causes of racism and the injustice it perpetuates, we cannot afford to remain silent, nor can we allow our actions to descend into violence. Violence only begets more violence.
I grew up in the south when racial equality was hotly resisted. My public school was integrated by court order, almost two decades after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Dozens of my white classmates decamped to private schools.
The summer prior to integration, I overheard conversations among parents of my white classmates. They feared the quality of their kid’s education would suffer. They worried about white and black children sharing the same restrooms, romping on the same playground, and dining in the same cafeteria. They even feared the quality of the school orchestra would suffer by the influx of students they believed were naturally unsuited to classical music.
So much fear. It seems ridiculous now but was grounded in a culture of anxiety about the “other,” who from the privileged vantage point of whites were better off and should’ve been content in traditional roles of servitude and invisibility. Black people had a “place” in society, and it threatened the elevated status of whites to share it. Ironically, most considered themselves good Christian folk who loved their neighbors.
That was 45 years ago. But the same malignant mindset has resurfaced with a vengeance, because fear is the easiest emotion to stoke. When fueled by those who fan its flames for political gain, or who equivocate racist ideas and acts with those who stand against them, white nationalists and other hate groups are enabled and legitimized. Their concepts gain the patina of respectable opinion worthy of serious debate.
Sorry, but I won’t waste my time debating anyone who believes they are racially superior to another human. Any argument for such is scientifically baseless, beneath contempt, morally bankrupt, and must be tossed in the same trash-heap as the Flat Earth theory and other nonsense.
Our healing task is to address the fear which lies at the root of racism. It starts with each of us. In our everyday interactions with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family, we must challenge stereotypes, name racist comments for what they are, and educate ourselves and others about the dehumanizing reality of racism. We must call our leaders to account.
Thankfully, the Unite the Right rally on Sunday drew far fewer proponents of hate and fear than the thousands who gathered nearby to speak out against such poison. This is the moment in which we find ourselves, when vigilance, moral courage, and resolve to pursue justice is required. For people of faith, doing so is nothing less than our calling. We must stand together, not to meet violence with violence, but to demonstrate that love is always more powerful than fear and hate.