I really want to write about what happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a group of White Nationalists organized a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a Confederate monument of General Robert E. Lee. I wanna write about how they carried both the Confederate and Nazi flags while screaming racial slurs and giving the Nazi salute. I wanna tell you about the young woman who lost her life when a car plowed into a crowd of people. I wanna tell you about the brawls that broke out when counterprotestors and White Nationalists clashed.
I want to tell you about all those things, because I am a writer and I’m good at putting my thoughts into words that other people can read and understand.
I want to write about this, like I write about so many other things, but I can’t. For some reason, this time is different. I feel so many things, but my words are failing me. I’m not eloquent enough to string together words that will adequately reflect the sorrow and disgust I felt while I watched the events of the weekend unfold. I’m not even sure such words exist.
I’m a writer, but I’m also a black woman raising a black son in a country where, 152 years after slavery was abolished and 53 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, people still feel comfortable enough in their hatred to take to the streets under flags that represent hate, white supremacy, and intolerance with tiki torches and indignation and ignorance so pervasive that I can’t even find the words to address it. And my black son, who is handsome and smart and 15 years old as of last Saturday, attends a private, predominately white school in the very same state where this blatant display of hatred occurred over the weekend.
I wanna write about how afraid I am for him, growing up in a place where these White Power fanatics are only fueled by the President’s refusal to acknowledge or rebuke them… but more than I’m afraid, I’m angry.
I can’t find the words to talk about this because in my 35 years of being alive, I’m not sure I’ve ever been this angry.
Nah… Not angry. I’m mad as hell.
I’m mad because these corny-ass, tiki torch carrying white men wearing dockers and boat shoes without socks had the audacity to march through a college campus in 2017. I’m mad because they feel justified in their hate and ignorance and truly believe America belonged to them before we came along and they want to take their country back—a country we never asked to occupy and were brought to as slaves. I’m mad because my father, who is 81 years old and grew up in Jim Crow Virginia, a proud man who remembers having to step off the sidewalk to pass a white person and actually saw someone hanging from a tree in Alabama, watched footage from this weekend with tears in his eyes. I’m mad because he realizes that the world he lived in is no different from the one his grandson is experiencing, despite the great sacrifices that were made to change things.
I’m mad because how do I arm my kid against this? How do I teach him to respond to racism this blatant? What do I say? How do I instruct him? I want him to be a man, to be proud of who he is, to be unafraid to speak his mind and stand by what is right, but I also want him to be alive, to come home. What do I tell him to do in a country where just being a black man is reason enough to cut him down where he stands?
I’m mad because these cracker-ass, hate-filled, ignorant white people are robbing me of my ability to look at white people without wondering about who they really are under their tight smiles and casual deference. I’m mad because I wonder how many of them with whom I interact on a daily basis were shaking with excitement when they watched the events unfold over the weekend, elated that someone finally had the courage to say what they are too weak or afraid or politically correct to say.
I’m not naive enough to think that these groups ever stopped existing. I know that they’ve been underground, meeting in secret, running racist websites, whispering their disgust and intentions among one another, but I’m mad that this president gives them the courage to hate out loud, joining en masse to protest, endorsing in his silence their right to do so, and only after David Duke says they are marching to help him make America great again.
I’m mad because this situation is robbing me of my objectivity. I support any group’s right to protest. We all have that right as American citizens under the first amendment, which protects our freedom of speech and rights to peaceful assembly, and whether I agree with their message or not, I support fully their right to exercise the first amendment. I also think that we are hypocrites in how we see this, because let’s be fair, the counterprotestors had good intentions for being out there, and I support their cause 100%, but they were not non-violent and blameless in their indignation. They were part of the formula that caused the eruption that took place over the weekend. I’m mad because I know all of this in my logical mind and I DON’T CARE. I don’t care, because how damn dare they have the unmitigated gall to chant and rage and rally against people who look like me? I’m mad because I can’t see this outside of the lens of my own emotions. There is no logic here.
I’m mad because this is America on Monday, August 14, 2017. Right now.
I’m mad because there were pastors in the pulpits of black churches yesterday telling their congregations to turn the other cheek against what happened or, even worse, choosing not to address it at all.
I’m just… mad. Not articulate. Not objective. Not witty. Just mad. Mad enough to hate them the same way they hate me, but too afraid to allow that kind of hate to enter my heart, because, as history continues to show us, this isn’t the kind of hate that goes away. It bubbles quietly under the surface until it explodes, sending innocent lives and morals and hope up in flames.
I think this is the best I can do today.