From the hate in Charlottesville, hope for the future

I am reposting a blog from Alexandra Chandler, a woman I’m proud to know as an online acquaintance and I hope, someday, as an in-person friend.

I live 15 miles from Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of this weekend’s horrific events. I’ve spent the past several days near tears, unable to come to terms with the hatred and violence that blanketed the city I love. The rally lasted just a few hours; its effects will stay with me for a lifetime.

Heather Heyer, who died when a car allegedly driven by a neo-Nazi, ran her down, will be laid to rest today. I pray that event can happen without incident and it can be a step in this city’s healing.

Which brings me to Alex’s post. Alex is a transgender woman who’s fought hatred and discrimination since she transitioned, from white supremacists and others. If you’re wondering how to help, she offers some insights. Thanks, Alex. Your words resonate with me today, especially.

To those reading this, spread hope, not hate. Spread love, not fear. We are bigger than this. We are #charlottesville.

*****************************************************************************

Don’t despair. Honor Charlottesville with action

August 15, 2017

Speaking only for myself. I’m not here to work out my own feelings, my outrage or to seek out meaning. I’m not here to convey an image of woke-ness. 

 I’m here to encourage action that changes things. I pray the display of overt, proud hate in Charlottesville carries the seeds of its own destruction. I pray the tragedy and bravery in Charlottesville is the vital call to action for those of us that are white in America.

 I think back to my own call to action, which started as a reaction against white supremacism. After 11 years of being mostly silent about my story as a transgender woman and the lessons my life has taught me about our society, I chose to speak out. In just a few days last November, a white supremacist mailed anti-Semitic hate mail to a neighborhood parent acquaintance and journalist. A dad who I would see with his kid at the playground. And then people spray painted swastikas at my childhood neighborhood high school. This happened in liberal Washington, DC and New Haven, CT. Don’t kid yourself that this is a Southern or rural problem alone. And this happened following an uptick in violence against LGBT people, especially trans women of color. And then I saw a video of Kansas students chanting for their non-white classmates to go back to Mexico. 

 I had doubted whether I had anything worthwhile to say or do. I had hesitated to put myself out there other than a Facebook post or talking with friends and family- and even then confronting only when need be. I was afraid of offending, of saying the wrong thing. But then I started writing the words that became my Washington Post op-ed. And that led to more and more writing and speaking and giving and participating and protesting and plans for more actions to come beyond anything I ever imagined. 

 Now, I only wish I had done so earlier. More after Ferguson. More after Charleston. More after so many moments. I wrote and told my story as a transgender woman not because it would help struggling transgender women, or transgender girls just like me. I wrote it because so many trans women are also trans women of color, or trans immigrants of color. Or poor trans immigrants of color– who frankly need more support than another white middle class trans woman from an accepting family like mine. And because making even one person who is “soft” in their bigotry check their assumptions for a moment could do good for other communities, trans or straight, of any color.  

 Contrary to the rants of some about “identity politics”, this is not about dividing people into groups of who is worse off. This is about recognizing our different lived experiences, which is a prerequisite to real unity. And that real unity, where we support one another with our eyes open, where we recognize that white supremacy and Nazism victimizes us all in different ways, is when we can make progress on the structural social and economic issues that reinforce our divisions while serving the purposes of the few and the powerful. 

 Make no mistake, there are those that make political profit by perpetuating these divisions. They are doing it right now, and have been since America’s founding. In the last few years, they have taken a new approach. If they can’t scare you into hate, they can discourage you with what-about-ism, nihilism, or false equivalancies. And if they discourage you enough, you won’t engage. And you won’t vote. But they will– because they will not practice the nihilism they try to instill in you. 

 We all can do something or something more to resist hate, and to build up the resistance of others to its message. You may have a story to tell that can motivate others. You may have resources to give that can fund others. Most of you can protest in relative safety as an ally where people of color and other groups fear mistreatment and even violence, including from the police. Most of you have even some tiny resources to give. Maybe you will be in a room where you can step in and call out racism, sexism, ableism, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant bigotry.  Particularly those of you who are white and men will be in such a room where the rest of us are discussed. I know. I am white, and I was once perceived as a white male. I’ve been in those rooms too, and I still am sometimes. And I’ve had my proud moments and those that still haunt me with shame. I say this not to demonize white men or white women, but to offer up the opportunities that privilege brings. I’m here to encourage, and to prompt action, not to prompt guilt and despair without purpose or effect.

 People of color and other communities have been fighting this fight against forces of hate building quietly. They have fought without the visible, physical, financial support we can bring in our communities. They have been dying doing so.

 Accordingly, they are the leaders. In this struggle, it is on us to educate ourselves, to listen, to support, to follow. This is not a cop out, it is an acknowledgment of who has done the most work and who has the most on the line all the time, whereas most of us can and do come and go from engagement as we please to varying degrees.

 I am an optimist. America and human civilization has in the very long view moved forward in inclusion and in humanity to one another. We are experiencing a backlash that has been there for years but has been like an iceberg to white America- so little visible to us above the surface and yet so much bigger than we realize below the surface. 

 We have all the tools we need to help change this course. I have seen many links over the last several days, but for those who are engaging in this process for the first time, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Ten Ways to Fight Hate is a great start and of very broad utility, with concrete examples. 

 I’ll close by only very briefly touching on some good news. It involves the specter of a man who is so weak, so small, so scared and insecure that he can’t criticize actual Nazis who would kill their fellow Americans or deprive them of their rights. He considers some of them “fine people” and equates them to protestors defending civil rights and our Constitution.

 The good news is that all his defeats are clearly getting to him, what little political capital he has shrinks by the day, his political allies dwindle. And that means he is less likely to get as much done on his terrible policy agenda before his time comes to an end. All those actively resisting his agenda should perversely take pride in their handiwork today. They are holding the line. If that includes you, keep it up.

 Don’t despair. Honor the heroes of Charlottesville with further action. Hold the line as they did.

 

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