Patriots, thou shalt not be bigots

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Hatred at its finest

The good news? For once, our president seemed to be too busy to tweet in a timely manner.

The bad news? This was an event that warranted a response: a condemnation of prejudice in a disturbingly vile action and a quick reminder that America will not accept this behavior or white supremacist ideology.

Unless you’ve been in a coma, in a hospital stationed under a rock, with headphones on, you have no doubt been inundated with news of the white supremacist/Nazi march in Charlottesville, VA. While CNN and NBC have to call it by all sorts of euphemisms, it truly is a hark back to the far-right terrorism of World War II, and a disgrace to this nation that seeks to move forward.

Counter protesters in Seattle, WA marching against the racist group Patriot Prayer’s rally (YouTube screenshot)

While those marching carried torches and wore shirts adorned with swastikas, the response from POTUS was not a decisive “This cannot happen. This will not happen again” but a vague, decidedly soft approach, informing us, via Twitter, there was “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

Sunday, August 13, 2017, the city of Seattle experienced a less violent version of these events. The Patriot Prayer group gathered in the Westlake area in downtown Seattle for another far-right rally, with many dressing it up as a fight for “free speech.” Of course, their message has already had its day — and lost.

A counter movement turned up too, with signs ranging from clear messages of dismissal towards all racist views, comparing them rightly to the wars we have already fought and won, to the more ominous encouragement for racism to remain unspoken. Notably, the Shoreline Library in the Seattle area held an event on August 4th asking important questions about what the eradication of racist laws actually does to decrease systematic racism.

While no one died, there were weapons (including an axe) confiscated, and reports by NBC imply that tear gas may have been employed. Joey Gibson, the leader of the Patriot Prayer rally, found himself and his followers pursued by the counter-group, who chanted, “Black Lives Matter.”

Sign at the Seattle, WA counter-protest (Megan Wallin)

By now, people are hopefully starting to realize, from sources like NBC, Slate and CBS, that there has been a notable increase in hate crimes since the election of Donald Trump because his own words either state or heavily imply that hate is hardly a crime anymore, depending on who you are and who you hate.

Let’s not bother calling the uptick in racist crimes something less radical, like “racially charged” or “racially motivated.” “Racist” has all the right undertones — or rather, the wrong undertones. In this case, there is no more appropriate word.

It’s time to do something other than write and tweet and share stories on social media. Donations to victims, events like the one at the Shoreline Library, and using social media to get the names and faces of white supremacists out there in the public eye, where they have to be held accountable for their heinous views and acts, is a start.

Make America great again? That starts with making it uncomfortable to express racist opinions again. People cannot be made to feel as if they can safely express views that endorse the end of another person’s life, happiness or success. When a man says something to that effect towards a woman, we look at him as a predator, so why have we tolerated this in the name of free speech?

Franklin Graham, who — unlike his father, Billy — seems to weigh in on Facebook with the most ridiculously polarizing and unsupported views of current events, wrote the following:

“Shame on the politicians who are trying to push blame on President Trump for what happened in #Charlottesville, VA. That’s absurd. What about the politicians such as the city council who voted to remove a memorial that had been in place since 1924, regardless of the possible repercussions? How about the city politicians who issued the permit for the lawful demonstration to defend the statue? And why didn’t the mayor or the governor see that a powder keg was about to explode and stop it before it got started? Instead they want to blame Donald J. Trump for everything. Really, this boils down to the evil in people’s hearts. Satan is behind it all. He wants division, he wants unrest, he wants violence and hatred. He’s the enemy of peace and unity. I denounce bigotry and racism of every form, be it black, white or any other. My prayer is that our nation will come together. We are stronger together, and our answers lie in turning to God. It was good to hear that several Virginia and Charlottesville leaders attended church today at Mt. Zion. CNN said“The racial divides that fueled Saturday’s violence were replaced by unity Sunday…” Continue to pray for peace and for all those impacted by Saturday’s tragedies., ‘The racial divides that fueled Saturday’s violence were replaced by unity Sunday…’ Continue to pray for peace and for all those impacted by Saturday’s tragedies.”

When hate crimes and overtly expressed racism has become so openly destructive, it may be time to admit, Mr. Graham, that this administration has fostered an “Us versus Them” mentality, and that the man who thrives off false praise and million-dollar loans couldn’t be bothered to understand the true values of Chiristianity’s version of Jesus. He has emboldened the worst of views and either shrugged off or sought to silence those who question him.

Furthermore, those directly affected by the alt-right’s racist views, by our nation’s disparity in the incarceration rate of black men, and the slurs and insults that appear daily online that only target a person due to their ethnic background are not helped by talk of unity and prayer. In fact, our president’s tweets focused on unity, saying “WE ARE ALL AMERICANS FIRST.” This should go without saying.

What will we do to address the problem?

It has been raging for years, contained only because we coined legal phrases like “hate speech” with the understanding that certain language invites and incites violence, and that our past still lingers in systematic forms of racial prejudice. It hasn’t been that long since Jim Crow, and it hasn’t been that long since using the “N word” was considered a racial slur rather than a common descriptive term used by one group against another.

We still see extreme hatred in the realms of politics and our so-called justice system, which rarely deals out justice but still appears to specialize in protecting the interests of the powerful. Perhaps this will be an awakening.

Top photo: screenshot from video by Brennan Gilmore that shows the car that killed Heather Heyer
in Charlottesville, VA speeding into the crowd of counter-protesters.