9 November 2017

Feature: Word From the U.S

This Is Not A New Phenomenon

I wish those fears that have been growing and growing since the election campaigns started had just been an overreaction. I wish I wasn’t sitting here, watching the same scenes that I imagined in my head playing out on the news. I wish I could still feel surprised at what is happening around us, but I can’t and I won’t. None of this is new, but so many people only notice it now because it’s in their faces and they HAVE to look at it. Did you see the look in those neo-Nazis’ eyes when they were marching on Charlottesville? I’ve seen that look before, and it chills me to the core.

I’m tired. If I am tired what does that say for my friends and family members, and for all those people I don’t know, who aren’t white? They fight prejudice every single day of their lives. I don’t have the right to be tired, not now, not ever. Racism is such an everyday part of this country that people don’t even realize how appalling some of the things they say are…

"Oh you aren't like them, you are one of the good ones, you did it the right way!"

"I'm not racist, one of my friends is black!"

Or, you know when someone makes a racist joke and laughs and then says "only joking!". And then says "lighten up it was only a joke" when you get angry or offended.

There are many more of these aggression's. Those three are a few amongst many.

And then what about all those justifications I keep reading concerning the so-called “Alt-Right”… (Call it what it is please. A bunch of neo-Nazis)
“They aren't really Nazis!” (No, they were just waving that Nazi swastika around on flags for a laugh!)

“There aren't many of them, stop overreacting” (Oh no, that's why there are currently 917 hate groups that we know of in the US).

“Freedom of speech!!” (Hate speech too then?)

“If you bring attention to them you just give them more publicity which is what they want” (oh so sticking your head in the ground is a better option?).

“It's not the president's fault!!” (I didn't see him rushing to denounce white nationalist groups this weekend, did you?)

“But you say "Black Lives Matter"! So why can't we say "White lives matter" then??” (Because there never was a moment when the white person had to fight for equal rights in this country. Or any country for that matter).

“All lives matter!” (Fuck off please. Just fuck off).

This one is also great "I don't like to talk about my opinions on social media but that doesn't mean I don't donate, help, protest etc" "being a keyboard warrior doesn't do anything!".

Actually... WRONG. What happened during the Arab Spring? Where did you see REAL footage from REAL people? On Twitter! Where are the best opinion pieces being found nowadays? Blog posts going viral. When you refuse to voice an opinion you are dangerously close to becoming one of those who refuses to see the reality of things. And trying to justify why you don’t want to talk about causes online makes it sound like those who do are doing something wrong. Opinions DO matter and are always important. Even just sharing a good blog post or a photo or a news article can maybe help reach one additional person, create one more ally. Don’t pretend that social media doesn’t matter, because it is a HUGE part of how events/news/issues and information is shared today. If you want to keep your social media opinion free, do it, but don’t go on about why you do that on social media, please. But honestly, to me, your silence speaks volumes.

Back to our white power-KKK-neo-Nazi groups. What the fuck is "white culture"??? If that's a way to refer to "European culture" then I think it's time for a geography lesson... Europe is composed of many countries, spanning a large space in the Northern Hemisphere. These countries have different histories and backgrounds, as well as different languages and traditions. Danish culture is very different from Spanish culture; British culture very different from Russian, and so on. I have as much in common with a Latvian as I do an Indian. I was born in a European country and raised in another and have no idea what these US white supremacists means when they refer to “white” or “European” culture. I know what they are referring to, and don’t need to be enlightened on the subject, but my point is that it makes no sense whatsoever (although not much of what they believe in does to me).

If you are white and you are American you are a descendant of immigrants. Your culture isn't "white culture" (whatever that really means). Your culture is a mix of your heritage, the traditions your ancestors started in the new country, and the cultures and traditions brought and started by other immigrants who came here. Your culture is the land you were born on, land that used to belong to the natives and the buffalo and the wild horses. Your culture is a mix of everything. You can’t pick and choose what you like and don’t like – your country belongs to people from all over the world. But ultimately your country belongs to those who lived here long before your ancestors. Long before the white person stepped foot on this side of the world.

So… Whose culture is really being erased?

We all know how badly ingrained racism is in this country. You can whine on about how you aren't privileged but if you are white you are. Just listen to the experiences of others instead of refusing to believe that this country is pretty rotten at the core (hey I have no qualms admitting that my country has done some pretty disgusting shit too, and still does). Don't say you "don't see skin color" because you do. You can't tell people to stop talking about race and then pretend that racists don't exist. Oh yeah, please don't talk about reverse racism – that really doesn’t exist. And again, don’t mention your one black/Mexican/mixed friend. I doubt your token friend appreciates that you like him/her because “they aren’t like the rest”.

I will tell you a story, a personal experience. I know many people think I overreact when I hear of Nazi rallies or when I see someone with a Nazi tattoo (happened a while ago in a deli, an older man, he turned round and smiled at the girls and all I could see was his tatted back and torso, Nazi symbols intertwined with crudely inked words). You don't have to have your swastika in full view, the 88's, the runes, the images... They speak for themselves. I react the way I do because I KNOW how serious these people are. This isn't American History X, a bunch of disenfranchised youths listening to their leader and following every word he says, becoming "enlightened" after a prison sentence and realizing that black people aren't what they were taught (surprise!). This isn't a movie; these people are REAL and they are everywhere, even more in the open than they were before. And while Trump has allowed them to be more open about their beliefs and convictions, fearing fewer repercussions, they existed a long, long time before. And not just here, all over Europe. And not just in the old Eastern bloc countries, ALL over Europe.

I know for a fact that many of the people who join these hate groups aren't unhappy, unemployed, uneducated youths. On the contrary, they are often well educated, smart kids who slowly become more and more involved, fully believing their convictions are real and the truth. Back in the 90's when I was a teenager and into a lot of heavy metal I saw a grey line emerge within the scene. It was the time of black metal, the time of Burzum and Varg Vikernes' incarceration. Metallica wasn't enough, more darkness was sought after, and with it often came another darkness, one that I saw emerging in people's eyes, turning them from friend into foe. These friends weren't easily manipulated or suffering from some kind of superiority complex. They were not poor and unemployed. They were just looking for something to make their lives more meaningful, convinced that their country was being overrun by evil. Slowly but surely the scene grew apart, disbanded, everyone going off in different directions, and even though I still lived in the same town as them I made sure I didn't bump into some of those old “friends” again. Over the years I heard stories, even though I had moved across the world, stories I knew were not rumors. I had hoped that with time their minds would have changed, they would have grown out of this hatred, but unfortunately it just got worse.

I recently woke up to a comment on one of my public photos on Facebook, and felt my heart skip a beat. My last run in with this person was in my very late teens, locked into a room where he looked at me with black, piercing eyes, telling me if I didn't shut up and “get with the program” harm would come to me. Even back then I documented everything with words and photos, and I still have a photo of my face after that "party", eyes bloodshot from crying, but resolved to never, ever let anyone instill fear into my heart again that way. That last encounter with that person proved to me that I was right to walk away from these people and their growing hatred. Seeing this person comment on a photo of me and my family 20 years later asking me how I was and how he would love to hear all about my life stopped me in my tracks. Should I answer? Had he changed? One quick glance at his profile, one “WP” thrown in a public status was enough to tell me he hadn't. And no I did not need to respond. Just because we went to metal shows together when we were 16 doesn't mean that we need to be connected on social media now. I abhor what he stands for, and seeing as he's all for white power, I'm pretty sure I'm considered a traitor to his precious race anyway. Some people really don’t deserve a second chance, or even a first chance.

All this to say that they are everywhere, and not always in places that you imagine them to be. They aren't all skinheads with white laces in their paraboots. They look "normal", have "normal" jobs, and probably don't bring too much attention to themselves. But they harbor beliefs that do not represent what this country supposedly stands for. Their rhetoric may be enchanting at times, and you may be drawn to dismiss them as a "bit extreme", or "a bit eccentric, but harmless". I suppose it's easy to say that if you have nothing to fear or lose. But believing one race is better than another, believing that if you don't conform to certain ways of life, you don't have the right skin color, gender, religion, or sexual orientation you are a lesser human being and don't deserve to live, well those beliefs have caused wars and millions of deaths. Dismissing one person, pretending they don't exist or are harmless just helps them grow stronger. Your country hasn't just become racist. These people aren't new, they are a lot more entrenched and numerous than you can imagine. I was brought up to believe in equality and love, but even my upbringing didn’t stop me from being surrounded by people with hatred in their souls.

If you can stomach it, take some time to read the literature that these hate groups churn out. Read what they say about women, POC, immigrants, the LGBTQ community. Read what they say about non -Christians. Read what they say about mixed marriages and mixed children. And believe what they say - because if you don't you risk to be taken by surprise sooner rather than later. Saying that you don't want to bring attention to them is a cop out - bringing attention to them makes it easier to flush them out. They aren't going to go away just because you pretend they don’t exist. And by saying that really shows your privilege. So please, use your privilege to flush them out and get rid of them. Use your privilege to fight with and for those who need to be protected from this crap and this bullshit. These people won’t be changing their minds anytime soon, so let’s stop them from getting bigger and stronger. A few months ago a woman was murdered by a white supremacist, a terrorist, born and raised here. How many more will get hurt or killed at the next rally? Be brave. Be honest and be true. The longer we sit in silence, the faster they gain power.
And no, again, I am not overreacting.

Written by Jade. 

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