This weekend, our country went completely off the rails. Or as far off the rails as I have seen it in my adult life. The events of Charlottesville and what led up to it have consumed my mind for the past twenty-four hours. I’ve watched in horror as the curtain on the underbelly of our country has been pulled back and exposed.
I’ve spent the day wondering if this will be the new normal for our country and I have to say no. No, this will not be the new normal. Hate and “white lives matter” will not be our theme song.
If you think that these wack-a-dos with their swastikas and flags and KKK hoods are a new phenomenon in our country, you are sorely mistaken. They have been waiting in the wings for a very long time. They have been grumbling amongst themselves for decades and generations. They pushed back against the civil rights movement of the 60s and then licked their wounds and watched with hate in their hearts and eyes as black men were given the right to vote and schools were integrated. While our country ever so slowly progressed forward, they crossed their arms over their chests and dug their heels in. They taught their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to hate. But they were secure in their place in this world. They were still on top, still superior, still had the upper hand and confident that minorities were still not their equal.
They have been waiting in the wings, watching for their cue.
Then, change started happening a little too fast for their liking and their security as top dog was threatened. A black man was placed in the most powerful position in the world, his wife was adored by the masses and their children fawned over. It was more than they could bear.
Social media allowed them to spread their hate faster and more efficiently than ever before. They twisted and camouflaged their message enough so that it infiltrated the hearts of reasonable men and women.
Their cue to jump back center stage, right into the spot light, came when we allowed a man who aligned with their message to put minorities back in their place, who showed indecision in denouncing their support, who charmed the masses into thinking that looking out for number one was the most and only important thing, to become president. When all of that rhetoric now represented the United States on the global stage, that was their cue to fully come out of hiding.
And Charlottesville is the result. American citizens who finally feel emboldened and empowered enough to bring their hate into the light of day.
Their chanting may be loud but hate is not our theme song.
This is not who we are.
But knowing that we are better than that is not enough.
It takes every single person who saw what happened in Charlottesville this weekend and who were filled with sadness, anger, and disgust, to make their voice heard.
Silence is complicity.
If you are thinking…well, this doesn’t really affect me because these things aren’t happening in my town…think again. The time for turning away and saying “not my problem” is over.
So how do you speak up? You don’t have to grab a bull horn and take to the street corner. Just use the gifts you already have.
Parents…talk to your littles about loving the other little boys and girls in their class and treating them with kindness even if they look different. Read them children’s books about Martin Luther King. They’re in your library, just ask your librarian, I’m sure he or she would be happy to find them for you. Talk to your teens about what has happened this weekend, what led up to it and what happens next. Watch movies like Selma and The Help and Mississippi Burning with them. Watch Schindler’s List with them and talk about what it takes to stand up against authority that they know is harmful. Listen To Kill A Mockingbird in the car on the way to school and soccer practice.
Educators…incorporate empathy into your lesson plans. My friend Marisa is completely retooling her curriculum even though classes start in two weeks because she knows that these 18 and 19-year-olds need to learn that empathy and justice a part of every bit of life, even business writing.
Church goers…talk to your pastors. Ask really hard questions. Gather other church members and ask what you can do as a community of faith to bring healing to your town.
Employers…require your employees to read Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. Provide an opportunity for discussion and growth among your team of employees.
Employees…do not begrudge your co-worker when they get the raise or promotion you wanted. Be glad for them because who knows what is going on in their home and that raise may be the thing that keeps them afloat.
White people…we need to take a hard look at our lives. Imagine what it would be like to live a life where people hated you just for the color of your skin, your name, your hair. Imagine what it would be like to live in fear for your children if they ever got stopped by the police. Imagine shopkeepers following you around the store because they don’t trust you, even though they know nothing about you.
Racism and bigotry are real and strong in our country but they are not our theme song. Every single one of us has to sing a better song. A song of love, of justice, of unity. A song of resistance. A song of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But that song can only be heard if we all sing it.
So sing and play as loud as you can.