If you had asked me two years ago if I thought America was stupid enough to elect the most vile, narcissistic, crude, bumbling, incoherent fool who ever stumbled into office, I would have said no way. Oh, how I long for those days when I still believed America was only the partially dim-witted uncle I hoped wouldn’t embarrass me in front of my friends. America, as it turns out, is far worse. It’s a nation of (mostly) fools, run by psychopaths who are dead set on committing the sins of our past, over, and over, and over again. We seem to have learned nothing, and we have not “come far” – in fact, an argument can easily be made that we have actually regressed. Racism in America was never a thing of the past, only something hiding in our closets waiting to spring out at any moment, always knowing the ignorance that lurked in the hearts of so many, biding its time for the right moment to capitalize on it. Trump is “its” moment.
It’s 2017, we have allowed Nazis to brazenly take our streets and kill our people, and still we quibble over whether or not this is a “free speech” issue. As far as I am concerned, it’s not. After Charlottesville, the actions of ANTIFA have spurred a very “real” conversation in this country that needs to be had. Most Liberals, Progressives – Libertarians, even – have very strong opinions against the use of violence unless actual physical force is first used against you. As far as I can see, it all depends on how you “define” violence. Is someone threatening to take my life or pointing a gun at me not committing violence? At what point does “free speech” cross that line?
Noun – behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.
strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force.
“the violence of her own feelings”
Some people have labeled ANTIFA a “hate group.” I do not view the protection (by any means necessary) of our oppressed brothers and sisters as coming from any other place than an extremely deep-rooted place of love. I do not speak for ANTIFA, but the people I know who have made that commitment are some of the best people I have ever had the pleasure of encountering.
After Charlottesville, so many people have been speaking out about what tactics should or should not be used in this war against racism – and let us not be deluded, this is a war. I have friends who I truly admire and respect that may not see things the same way I do. I would never “unfriend” them for having a different point of view, but the people I am culling are those who have absolutely no firsthand experience with any of these situations, yet continue to throw their two cents into the debate. These are the people who have NEVER been in the streets, NEVER witnessed state-sanctioned violence up close and personal (and let’s not get it twisted, Charlottesville was state-sanctioned violence), yet continue to prattle on with their quotes from Gandhi, and their hollow opinions that come from a place of nothing. Nobody, unless they have been tested, can definitively say what they would or would not do in a particular situation. Unless you have actually been there, it’s all conjecture. You may have opinions, but you know what’s been said about those.
Thursday night, some friends and I went to an event in the city called “Reportbacks from Charlottesville: Smash White Supremacy,” hosted by the Workers World Party. I had purposely not watched much of the news coverage during the week. I wanted to hear the accounts from people who were actually there, on the ground. I have been to some contentious protests in my life – DC on Inauguration Day being one – but as one of the speakers said, imagine being in a constant state of fear for twelve hours straight. I can’t; and while all of the speakers were amazing, I am sure that even their articulate accounts paled in comparison to the reality of what they experienced.
One of the last speakers on record was a seventeen-year-old girl from NYC’s BLM movement. She had told her mother she was heading to an “Anti White Supremacist” rally in Charlottesville, leaving out the part that it was a rally organized in direct response to the KKK, White Nationalists, and newly branded “Alt Rights” call to mobilize and unite.
Nupol said the first thing that struck her when she stepped out of the car was the air – you could literally feel the racism in it. It was something that she had never experienced in her life, and this is a young woman who is not unfamiliar with racism – she has been on the front lines, fighting the good fight here in NYC. She said the “men” (I use the term loosely), were purposely targeting women of color in the crowd – fragile white men who are threatened and afraid of anything that may change their pathetic existence, “men” who have now been emboldened to remove their hoods and stand tall, “men” armed with hate and the empowerment given them by our current administration.
I think one of the things I find most surprising is that a large majority of white America seems legitimately shocked that this is where we are. Over the years I have been told I suffer from “white guilt,” and some have even had the balls to say, “America is past racism.” Of course, these are always white men; I have yet to hear that ridiculousness spewed from any other color. For white people from the North, there is a misconception that racism only exists in the deep south. The night Charlottesville happened, I sat in my local bar and watched as a pickup truck with a Confederate flag the size of Alaska pulled through the parking lot. I could only deduce that the two knuckle draggers in it were heading back from Charlottesville. We may be north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but racism is here, too, and it always has been. It’s in the heart of every person who cannot see how these monuments of hate are reprehensible. Just because something is a part of history does not mean it should be celebrated. If you took the time to research these monuments, when and why they were erected in the first place, you may actually gain some enlightenment. Does taking them down solve our problems? No, but it’s a start.
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr
However, let us not fall into the trap of believing that Trump himself is the entire issue. He is not. There is a much deeper scourge festering within us. Often times I find myself at a loss when it comes to having any real solutions. I am crushed, like so many of us are, for our brothers and sisters who have to live under the boot of this system, and I feel helpless. Whether we are talking about systemic racism or the more open, in your face, inbred kind, racism in America has never gone away. And for anyone who wants to make false equivalencies like “black on black” crime, I have two suggestions: one, read a book, or two, jump off a tall building. If someone has to point out to you how this is not a viable argument, you really need to turn off FOX news and do some soul searching.
What I can suggest for white people who do care about the current state of the world and would like to do something, is to stand as an ally with POC whenever possible; and remember, Facebook activism is not activism. As someone said Thursday night, the burden is getting far too heavy to bear for those who have been out in the streets. If you are passionate about justice, you must get involved; otherwise, you are just bloviating, and the world has more than enough bloviators. I am involved with a great collective of people out here in Long Island called “Open Arms.” Some of the people who are part of this group have become like family to me. We do direct actions in the community, and are a solid line of support for each other when it’s needed – and these days, it’s needed often. There is nothing more important in my life than having those connections. Just this week we lost one of our own, and we are reeling. The bonds you make with fellow activists are unlike any bonds you will ever make in your life. Make them. You will be the better for it.
This afternoon, my friend Will and I are heading to a “Stand Together Vigil & Call To Action” rally in Amityville (a predominantly black community). It’s so important to support your neighbors, to form coalitions, and to not allow any form of racism (whether subtle or in your face) to be tolerated. Always remember, silence equals complicity. Let people say you have “white guilt,” or that you are a “social justice warrior.” I take it as a compliment, and find that most who use those terms are not contributing anything of substance or value to the world. It’s their way of feeling satiated with their ineffectual existences. Fuck them.
Author: Cynthia Tarana is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org