“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
These words, spoken by Desmond Tutu, have never been more relevant than they are today. If you’ve ever questioned how humanity could stand by and watch as the horrors of the past unfolded, ever wondered how you might have reacted in a similar situation, you need to stop and look around you. We are in the midst of one of the biggest civil rights struggles of our generation.
Barely 48 hours have passed since a horde of White Supremacists descended into Charlottesville, torches ablaze as they chanted racial slurs and Nazi slogans, stoking unchecked violence that left three dead and dozens injured.
The Commander-In-Chief offered his condolences and “best regards to all of those injured.” As simple as writing a greeting card.
Shock and outrage abounded in the form of hashtags and posts: #ThisIsNotMyAmerica.
In a few days, the storm will die down as the media moves on to the next big story, the fire raging only in the hearts and minds of those who lost loved ones and those who have always known the legacy of oppression in America. Unchecked power and privilege built on the backs of the most vulnerable among us.
If you are among the silent majority waking up to racism in 2017 America, this is your opportunity to question your neutrality and silence.
This is your chance to utilize your privilege to call out the racism you see around you. Muslim and Black Americans have always been told to police their own communities and to call out radical terrorism. The time has come to call out right-wing extremism and radical White Supremacy for the threat it poses. Dylan Roof and James Alex Fields are living testaments of a young America indoctrinated in bigotry and racism, welcomed with open arms into hate groups that are deemed to be harmless fringe minorities.
It’s time to engage.
Call out the casual racism at the dinner table- challenge the remarks that go unchallenged.
Speak up for Black lives, Trans lives, Muslim lives- their humanity should not be a matter of political debate.
Speak up against sexism, ableism, and anti-Semitism.
Call out the hypocrisy of law enforcement practices in engaging “safe” White communities vs. communities of color.
Challenge the very idea that one group is intellectually or culturally superior to another.
Humanity has flirted with genocide one too many times to provide fertile ground for such ideas to flourish. Your neutrality will not stop bigotry and hatred and your silence amounts to aiding and abetting.
Racism did not start with Trump, and it will not end with his impeachment. Radical White Supremacy may be bringing “blood and soil” back to the forefront, but the insidious effects of systemic racism go unnoticed every day. POC bear the brunt of racism day in, day out: from redlining practices to stop-and-frisk policies to countless microaggressions that deny us our humanity. Educating White Supremacists is not our responsibility and we do not have the privilege of remaining neutral.
If this is truly not the America you feel we deserve, you must use your power and privilege to speak out, because we have never known a different America.
To Native Americans, this has always been America.
To Black Americans, this has always been America.
To Jewish people and people with disabilities, this has always been America.
The horrors of the Holocaust started with the systematic removal of people with disabilities through a program largely inspired by the eugenic philosophy being propagated in America in the early 1900s. The Nazi salutes and chants hark back to dark times- America may have won the battle then, but it risks losing the war.
History teaches us the consequences of staying neutral in situations of injustice.
In the words of Heather Heyer: “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
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