It has been almost three weeks since the white supremacist acts of terrorism in Charlottesville, VA. We are still angered, saddened, afraid, and exhausted, but not surprised. Mostly because events like Neo-Nazi marches in Virginia have been happening across the country, including in Oregon, for a long time.
Surprise at Charlottesville suggests that violent acts of racism, anti-Semitism, and islamophobia (just to name a few) are new in the United States. In reality, our history is filled with the stories of Emmett Till, Craig Anderson, Philando Castille, and so many more who deserve to be named.
These news stories are usually treated as horrifying individual incidents. As a culture, at first we react strongly, but after several weeks we grow ambivalent, especially if we think we are not personally affected. In reality, incidents of hatred and prejudice are all connected. Woven together, they create the larger fabric of our society. We cannot separate white supremacist attacks in Virginia from the 18 murders of transgender people over the last eight months. In the same way that we cannot separate the Portland MAX attack from the acts of sexual violence perpetrated every day in our country.
At their core, these actions dehumanize people who are usually already marginalized by our society. They inflate and protect the power of the perpetrators of violence. They reinforce the dynamics of power and control that have been at play since our nation’s founding, and before.
To those in our communities who continue to feel threatened by these events, we want to say that we hear you, and that we are here to support you.
Actively working against violence and bigotry should be a priority for every person. We all have the opportunity to influence change. To those who don’t feel like these issues impact them, we want to show you that they do. They impact your neighbors, community members, friends, and friends of friends. They impact children, who look towards adults to learn their self worth and how to interact with the world around them. They impact all of us in ways we cannot necessarily see or feel.
These stories don’t just happen on the news. Prejudices exist around us every day. The more we interrupt oppression in our daily lives, the more accountable we hold people in our communities to the value of humanity and the demand for universal human rights.
Taking action takes courage and humility. If you want to get involved but are not sure where to start, here are some suggestions how:
- Listen with humility to people who share their experiences of identity-based hate, discrimination, or violence
- Do research to learn about oppression and what it looks like in our culture
- Seek out reputable news sources
- Interrupt oppressive language or behavior
- Take action politically by donating to anti-oppressive organizations, or by supporting campaigns and candidates that actively work against systems of oppression in our country