On Saturday: Before any news from Charlottesville, VA broke, I was out running on Maxwelton Road on Whidbey Island. The opposite end of the country. About halfway into my run, a young woman came running towards me waving her arms to stop me. She looked to be about my daughters age, late 20’s maybe 30. I pulled out my ear phones and stopped to listen. She was dressed in running gear and had come from the place I was heading.
She said, “Don’t go up the road, there is a guy up ahead that feels dangerous!”
I could sense her fear. I asked her if anything happened to her, she said no.
I asked if she lived here. We get many tourists especially on Saturdays. I wondered if some of our local people could look a bit peculiar, maybe scary if you don’t know them.
She said she lived here.
I told her not to be afraid, that I would turn around and run her back to town.
“I will be right behind you, I have your back”
This is what we are struggling to build in America.
We need to have each other's backs.
And we keep running into boundaries.
Boundaries that protect racism.
The racist neo-nazi, white supremacist, alt-right, is not a “fringe” small group of people.
I am concerned about those words. We need to stop minimizing them and mislabeling them.
If you think of them as fringe and small, it may give you comfort. But that is not the truth.
This group has been part of America going back hundreds of years and they have built every system from education to governance to policing.
They are everywhere and if we are going to put an end to this we need to take them seriously, see them as dangerous, and stop giving them power.
On Tuesday night: Baltimore, the city and it’s police department rounded up the confederate monuments in their city and took them down. This is the bold beginning we need.
Over the days and weeks years and decades ahead, you will have opportunities to stop protecting racism.
We will need new laws.
We will need to dismantle the prison system that was built to incarcerate Black people.
We will need to make reparations to Native Americans and Black Americans.
We will need to root out racists that are in our systems of policing, education, governance, and leadership.
And we will need new history books for all of our schools. A history that is truthful and inclusive and stops perpetuating lies.
We need to stop protecting racism with lies.
Their biggest weapon is the lying.
Labeling liberals as alt-left, is the same way every group is attacked. It is the lies of Hitler about Jews, it is the lies about Native Americans, it is the lies about people who are Black, Hindu, Muslim, Asian, Gay, Trans, Liberal, Refugee, Homeless. There are lies about all of us.
You and I will be on the frontlines to defeat racism for the rest of our lives. Every line is the frontline.
They want to keep us divided. Don't protect racism by staying divided.
Some people of color have been writing and speaking up furious and outraged that white people are coming in so late. Hear that!
The racists have kept power because of white silence, white privilege, and white complicity. The racists will continue to use this.
They will use all they can in the days ahead. And they will use more than lies. They came to Charlottesville with guns.
We need to do the work of dismantling every vestige of power. Be diligent in asking yourself
Is my money supporting racism?
Is my vote supporting racism?
Are my words and deeds racist?
Is my silence allowing this to continue?
How can I work against racism?
May we all be brave in the days ahead. May we all have the courage to stand on the frontline. And may we find the strength to do it together.