Charlottesville may, for years to come, be associated with young White guys in their polo shirts and khaki pants carrying torches and shouting, “blood and soil,” and “you’re not going to replace us.”
But that’s not the case with most White people. Most White people are ashamed to be associated with such disgust and terror. They do not long for the ‘50s Mayberry, and they don’t use racial epitaphs when people of color are not around.
Most White folks want to live good lives and raise their families in a world of beautiful diversity with less hate; less violence; less police shootings of unarmed black men; less legal and economic discrimination and less racism.
But we are not there yet – and here’s why.
You’ve heard the old adage, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke). Well, the Unconscious Dominant Social Contract works like that, because there’s an unwritten kind of mega-peer pressure. White racists bet on the fact that when they make their slurs and dog-whistles, other White people won’t speak up, stand-up or shut them up. And that’s the power of racism.
Racists feel emboldened and empowered to carry out their mission, not so much because people of color will object, but because they don’t believe other White folks will stop them.
I am often asked, “How can White people be helpful in the struggle against racism, and not be seen by people of color as butting-in or trying to take over?” One answer to that question could be as simple as you using your power to speak up whenever and wherever you see racism lifting its ugly head. You could also consider attending community or organizational training sessions that focus on strategies that block and defer racists in their tracks.
One of the things I admire about the current protest movement, from Occupy to Standing Rock to Black Lives Matter, is the number of young White women and men standing up with people of color. This, unfortunately, has not always been the case, but it was in Charlottesville!
You also don’t have to limit speaking out against racism to protest movements.
Racism and White Social Dominance is apparent all around, you just need to learn to recognize it. There are people who can help. Training and exposing yourself to people of color is needed to accomplish this well. (Remember the part about not trying to take over? Take note). Oftentimes, White folks benefit greatly by simply listening to experienced people of color sharing their stories and strategies. Being a good listener is critical to the process.
When you think about Charlottesville, Standing Rock, Ferguson and the other protest movements standing against racism and for something really good, remember the change taking place in America.
Martin King Jr. called it the forming of the “beloved community.” I call it “the community of creation” or the “shalom community.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s coming! Although we are just now beginning to turn a huge social corner—and we have a long way to go—we are coming together now!