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A Reflection on Charlottesville

It has been thirteen days since I woke up to news of white supremacists terrorizing Charlottesville, VA the night before. Twelve days since demonstrations by the KKK, neo-Nazis, and far-right homegrown militias led to the murder of counter-protester Heather Heyer. Do not be fooled my fellow Americans, this was not merely a protest about Confederate statues or Freedom of Speech; this was an act of domestic terror.

I am a black American and this is my frank and honest opinion about what transpired.

This kind of terror is, sadly, becoming more and more familiar to me I think, not because things are getting worse, but because I am growing in my awareness of it. I think many of us are growing more aware in this age of the internet, social media, camera phones, and 24 hour cycles of national and global news.

A well-meaning white friend of mine wanted to check in with me that day, knowing how sensitive I can be to the news of the day. He said he couldn't imagine what it would be like to be black, witnessing this news. I was a little surprised by his assessment, because it seemed to me that the country had just witnessed a brutal display of white-on-white violence. Yes, there were some minorities in the crowd in Charlottesville that day, but this protest event seemed to be primarily attended by white people on both sides. It is still unclear if James Alex Fields Jr. was targeting people by race or by ideology that day when he drove, top speed, into the crowd. Why should I, as a black American, be any more upset by this than any other kind of American?

There have been many tragedies in America where us black people seem to be the only ones aware or affected, but I wouldn't have thought this was one of them. This is why it only added further insult to injury when America couldn't unite in condemnation of white supremacists after this terrorist attack. When the President of the United States failed to condemn in a timely or sincere manner the people supporting both him and white supremacy.

There was a time when comparisons to Hitler and Nazis were considered over-the-top rhetoric in American politics, when they were considered the obvious bad guys from a war long since won, but now is not that time. Now we are seeing overt Nazi slogans and salutes, the KKK parading about in broad daylight, intimidation with torches and guns, violence, trepidation from police and politicians too cowardly to get involved, and people minimizing or even celebrating our nation's history of slavery, oppression, and genocide. The time has come for all decent Americans of any race or affiliation to call out fascism and racism when we see it. To resist it and to stand up to it with the boldness Heather Heyer and the other counter-protesters had that day.

For many, the events in Charlottesville brought grim reminders of the mass shooting in a church in Charleston, SC two years prior. But one major difference is between them is that the victims in Charleston were black. White America has since shrugged off the fact that Dylan Roof was intentionally trying to start a race war, that he had an affinity for confederate symbols, that the cops treated him to lunch after arresting him and did not shoot him on sight as they might have a black suspect. Black America is long past surprise at White America's tolerance (or some might say, "perpetuation") of white supremacy. At this point, I know many other minority groups feel the same.

But since that day in Charlottesville, it has become clear to me that some white people don't even have concern for their own in instances like these. Some of the comments white male supremacists made about Heather Heyer in the aftermath were so repulsive I won't even repeat them. After Charlottesville, after Sandy Hook, after the Freedom Summer murders in '64, after countless other murders and lynchings in our history, it should be obvious that America has no inclination to fight this domestic terror threat. Perhaps many American citizens do, but those in power have proven they do not.

This is why white male supremacy is a problem we must address. White males have historically had the majority in our government; white males have historically committed the most terrorist acts in America. Now is not the time to mince words or to play color blind. The media obsesses over speeches and tweets by government officials denouncing these terrorist acts, but actions speak much louder than words. I have said before and I will say again, there is little that the current administration can say, and a whole lot that they must do before I ever believe that are fully committed to Justice and Equality in America.

Recently, I've wondered about the perspective of my ancestors. I've tried to understand what kept them going when they had to know that the struggle for Equality might never be won in their lifetime. I'm reminded how each generation has faced impossible odds, and that many civil rights victories were only won in living memory. I tell everyone who will listen that these rights are not guaranteed. It is up to us to defend them. It is up to us to keep working for a more just, more peaceful world. Never tire, my friends. Never quit. Be bold, be brave. Be the change you wish to see, and never forget, you are not alone; we are in this together.

Freddy Lawson

Friday August 25, 2017

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