“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” – Maya Angelou.
When I was little, my dad told me a story. His father, my grandfather, had fought in WWII, and though he rarely discussed his experiences there, it was clear my grandpa was deeply affected by it. My grandfather held no ill-will towards German soldiers. My dad has seen him sit down over a beer with German vets, and discuss battles they fought against each other. Each man was defending his country in the best way he knew how.
One day, while my Grandpa was grabbing a bite to eat, a man walked in with a swastika around his neck. My grandfather walked up, yanked it off his neck, and threw it in the garbage, saying, “I fought for five years so that I would never have to see that symbol again, I’ll be damned if I’m going to look at it while I’m eating.”
Nazis were not soldiers fighting for their country. They were the embodiment of hate, and their mere presence was enough to enrage my grandfather.
WWII ended decades ago. My grandfather died in 1990. I grew up genuinely believing that Nazis were primarily a threat of the past. I was not naïve enough to think racism did not exist or that white supremacy was no longer a thing, but I thought that Nazis were few and far between, with their days of organized membership and general threat subdued.
That we are still fighting Nazis is something I am having a hard time wrapping my head around. That people are still making excuses for their existence is even harder to understand.
When the Nazis (I refuse to euphemize their name) marched into Charlottesville, literal torches in hand, it sent shivers down my spine. It was the clearest example of blatant racial hate I have seen play out live in my lifetime. Racism is everywhere, bigotry is everywhere. Hateful words, discriminatory acts, casual dismissiveness, the threads of racism are woven throughout the world’s tapestry. But this was flooding the streets in a mob, not uttering hate but yelling it, advocating for it, calling it to action. A chilling reminder of how much blind hate has been sitting beneath the surface, just waiting for permission to appear.
It is no longer completely abhorrent to be a Nazi. This is the reality in which we live. Nazis are comfortable showing their faces. Proof of this is found in the reactions to this mob. “I think Nazis are awful, but…” has been a common reaction. But they are free to speak their minds. But the counter protesters were aggressive too. But those statues are a part of history. But what about groups like Black Lives Matter? “Nazis are bad…but” is the equivalent of “I’m not racist, but…” or “No offense, but…” There is no ‘but’ that will justify anything about white supremacy. Period. That even the president is unable to say, “This is wrong, and will not be tolerated” full stop, no buts, frightens me to my core.
I am raising children. Children who are half black. They are watching and they are listening. We are not raising them to be colourblind because being aware of racism and privilege is the only way to extinguish it. They know all about diversity, prejudice, equality, everything most parents try to instill in their children. But how do I explain to them that there are people in this world who hate them so much they advocate violence against them, simply because of their ethnicity?
They are aware that mere decades ago, their existence would have been a crime. Their father and I would not have been allowed to marry at all. They get that, and they are appalled. How do I tell them that there are people who still believe they are a crime against nature? How do I tell them that when confronted with this reality, so much of the population is responding, “Yes, but…”?
Stop the ‘buts’. Just denounce it. Scream it at the top of your lungs. We will not accept hate, we will not accept bigotry. Shout it so loudly your throat hurts.
When you hear the subtle racism that permeates your every day lives, don’t shake your head to yourself and think “That’s awful,” call it out. Call it by name.
Little eyes are watching us. Little minds are taking this all in. They see the hate. It’s up to us to teach them what to make of it. You will not change a Nazi’s mind by actively denouncing them, but you will show your child that hate is intolerable and inexcusable. What will you show them with a “Yes, but…” or with silence in the face of hate?
I’m done with diplomacy. I’m taking sides. It’s on us.
Image via Metro