On the Events of Charlottesville, VA by Xochitl Alvizo


It is in our hearts –one’s sense of superiority exists within. We are all and each capable of hate and bigotry.

It is considered the appropriate and necessary response to say that there is no room for it “here” – that we will not tolerate, in this case, white supremacy – here. Except here is exactly where it exists; here in our country, in our cities, in our communities, laws, structures, churches, homes, hearts and mind. The thread of a people’s sense of supremacy (power to dominate or defeat) has been woven into the fabric of this colonialist nation from the very beginning of what has come to be known as the United States of America.

The terror attack (terrorism = calculated use of violence, or the threat of violence, against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature) enacted in Charlottesville, VA is par for the course of a nation overwhelmingly invested in preserving the status quo. The embodiment of hate and fascism by white supremacists yesterday (Saturday, August 12, 2017) was an organized, well-strategized demonstration of a people increasingly emboldened by the big and small eruptions of white supremacy that have occurred this past year within our nation’s laws and among its leaders. The fact that we have such leadership in the first place is due on the fact that they are representative of a strand of superiority that already exists among us.

I say “us” because the capacity for this kind of self-preserving bigotry comes from within the human heart and exists in us all – we just happen to be dealing with a particular strand of it. But goddess, let us not think that we don’t have it in us, because if we refuse to acknowledge the capacity within ourselves, we risk not seeing it when it rears its ugly head in our hearts and mind.

But – staying specific to the context at hand – white supremacy was woven into the thread of this nation from the very start. Kelly Brown Douglas writes how it is the case that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were taken in by the reporting of 1st ce Roman historian Tacitus’ description of a Germanic tribe who successfully “fended off Rome’s empire-building agenda” (Stand Your Ground, 5). This tribe, “free from all taint of intermarriages” – “a distinct human race, like none but themselves” (read, exceptional), with “fierce blue eyes, red hair, and huge frames” (read, white), and “good [moral] habits” and an “instinctive love for freedom” (read, superior), captured Jefferson and Franklin’s imagination and effectively set the stage for their embraced of the myth that morality and freedom flowed through Anglo-Saxon veins in particular (Stand Your Ground, 5). This myth embedded the idea of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism in the United States from the start and helped shape white U.S.-ian identity.

That the truth of this history is the case does not mean, however, that we cannot liberate ourselves of the status quo of white supremacy; but it does means that we must collectively choose otherwise. Together we can work to change the pattern our national tapestry today takes.

Supremacy is inherently violent – it posits some humans as superior to others and enacts that violence in varied implicit and explicit forms. All that we saw yesterday in Charlottesville was one very visible manifestation, but it exists within and all around us all the time; but so do other possibilities as well – see the Poor People’s Campaign for just one relevant example.

As a collective of people who participate in the day to day life of this country, those of us who live in the United States day in and day out, must continually choose the ethics, morals, and values we wish to enact in the world in thought, word, and deed. We must find those comrades in the struggle with whom we can strategize toward a more truly democratic nation. Just as white supremacists can plan and organize hateful, violent attacks, those of us invested in justice-making, human-dignifying living can plan and organize demonstrations, actions, and practices of a different kind. And we must. Many of us already do, of course, but the work is continuous.

And so again, let us each continue to ask ourselves, what is my part in this struggle? And then let us get out and do it. Find our friends and co-workers en la lucha and continue the good work with renewed resolve. We owe it to ourselves and one another to enact and embody a more just and beautiful way of living and relating – to make it real for one another in word and deed, in our context, today so that the capacity which exits within us all to think we deserve (or are) better than others is kept at bay. It exists, but it need not rein us, we have so much more beauty we can bring to the world instead.

Do you have resources, information, or activism that you can direct us to and share? Please add it to the comments below.

If you want to read more about Kelly Brown Douglas’ work I reference above, Stand your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, you can find her book here, listen to her talk about it here, and read about it here.

Also, I recommend to you my friend, Carolyn Helsel’s recent essay on whiteness and discovering the racism history of her home state, “Growing up in Texas: A Spiritual Autobiorgraphy,” it represents the deep work that many of us need to do. I wrote a reflection essay in response, “To Be Comrades en la Lucha, which you can find in the same issue of Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary, Spring 2017. You can find both essays here: https://issuu.com/austinseminary/docs/spring_2017_insights_i

 

Xochitl Alvizo, loves all things feminist, womanist, and mujerista. She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters; it makes a difference for good or for ill. She teaches in the area of Women and Religion, and the Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, at California State University, Northridge.

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Categories: Activism, General, Media, power, Violence

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20 replies

  1. Thanks for posting this and in such a timely fashion. Much of this happened when I was asleep last night. Sometimes I say to myself that I am glad not to be living in the US of A in these times, but then I remember that the third largest party in Greece is the white nationalist ethno-Greek-centric neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. I guess you can’t escape.

    I read Helsel’s essay on Texas on your rec. While at the AAR last fall, I wondered what I was doing visiting the Alamo. I vaguely remember Davey Crockett, but that is about all. Helsel tells us that the fight with Mexico for Texas had a lot to do with the right to hold slaves. Needless to say that story was not told in the Alamo displays.

    I ran across this quote this am.

    “President Lyndon Baines Johnson once argued, ‘If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.’”

    I am sick and tired of listening to lefties arguing that Trump votes really are about economics, not about racist hate. Yes the two are interconnected, but it seems that for many Trump voters the sense of white (male) superiority is what they voted for.

    Pictures from the rally show mostly white males, but I am sure that many of them have wives at home who agree with them or keep their mouths shut if they don’t.

    I know these attitudes from my LA upbringing too.

    So what do we do? I wish I knew.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree with Carol that white supremacists voted Trump in. And I echo: what to do? I write from South Africa where we have similar, complex, problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this beautiful, inspiring, and so true post that is much needed this morning. A quick check of the Indivisible site, and I imagine others that list protests, shows literally hundreds of events today all over the country in response to what happened yesterday, everything from massive rallies in big cities to tiny gatherings in smaller towns. (One thing I’ve been heartened by in the past couple of years is how quickly demonstrations of hatred and bigotry immediately create responses. In my own small neighborhood, after an incident of racism involving a Black Lives Matter sign, lots of people decided to order and display their own signs and now, 18 months later, they are still up.)

    As you say, we all have a part to play and whatever we can do – whether marching, putting a sign on our lawns (there are a number of great lawn signs I’ve seen recently, including those welcoming everyone in different languages), writing posts or articles, volunteering for local organizations — makes a difference. It’s the combination of all those small acts that tips societies from their racist pasts to an inclusive, loving, compassionate and just future. We can’t change the past, but every day we can change the future.

    I think it’s also good to remind ourselves when we are feeling overwhelmed by the scenes we saw from Charlottesville yesterday and Friday night that there a lot more of us than there are of them. The combined numbers of those who counter-protested Friday and yesterday and who will gather today are, I’m sure, much greater than those who came to sow hatred and violence this weekend. Their destructiveness on so many levels should never be underestimated or ignored, but neither should the numbers and power of people who are determined that they will not define what our nation and world will be. I am still in awe when I think of the moment from the Women’s March when, standing on a hill in the middle of the Boston crowd, I looked up and around and saw nothing but tens of thousands of committed, peaceful people and I thought “There really ARE more of us. We can do this! We can make change!”

    As always, your wisdom and steady sense of “let’s get this done” is a balm and a blessing.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you, Xochitl, for this excellent essay. Shortly after DT became president last November, showing my utter dismay to my colleague, I said, “This is not who we are.” He countered with, “It IS who we are.” You’ve reminded us that we are all part of this thing we call humanity. This paragraph is especially poignant:

    “I say “us” because the capacity for this kind of self-preserving bigotry comes from within the human heart and exists in us all – we just happen to be dealing with a particular strand of it. But goddess, let us not think that we don’t have it in us, because if we refuse to acknowledge the capacity within ourselves, we risk not seeing it when it rears its ugly head in our hearts and mind.”

    Once we acknowledge that such ugliness IS part of who we are, our work to find a better way to be in the world becomes much more effective. Keep writing!

    Like

  5. BLM = Black Supremacy

    KKK = White Supremacy

    Other groups at yesterday’s rally

    Antifa
    Alt Right
    neo Confederates

    What do these groups have in common?

    They are all DemoKKKrats

    Yes…indeed even the Alt Right are DemoKKKrats

    As it was plainly clear in pictures and videos

    KKK along with the Alt Right in their official head dress their white hoods

    KKK was and is the “right arm” of the DemoKKKrats

    neo Confederates waving their Confederate flags also the “right arm” of the DemoKKKrats

    So don’t blame the Republicans or President Trump for that mess for we had not one representative there

    The Republicans were never part of the KKK

    It was DemoKKKrats vs DemoKKKrats

    Unless of course…

    You too want to scrub History! 󾓦

    FYI

    FACT CHECK: Senator Robert Byrd (if you dare to know the truth)

    …and I shall rest my case there

    Like

    • This is historically true. It was people who belonged to the Democratic Party who belonged to the KKK. But that is no longer the case. Over the last few decades, conservatives and reactionaries have left the Democratic Party, and joined the Republican Party. Now they are all behind Donald Trump.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Historically the “Dixiecrat” Democrats went over to the (welcoming) Republican Party in great numbers, starting in the mid-60s. Growing up white in middle GA during racial segregation & trying as a teenager to promote stands against it (in the Protestant Church my family was in), I saw & experienced this party switch happen. Whites making that move soon changed entire states from Dem. to Repub. A large wave of this party shift came after Pres LBJ promoted & signed the historic Civil Rights Bill, after years of civil rights activism & the US Supreme Courts School Desegration decision. LBJ said to Dems then, “you will lose the south for generations.” (At the time many of us were also demonstrating against LBJ over the VietNam War.) The welcoming co-hort in the Republicans had become larger & stronger in the 1964 LBJ vs Goldwater Pres. race, when the racist John Birch Society supported & Goldwater & the Republican Party did not reject them.

        Like

  6. So much reporting and comment about violence is framed in “Ain’t they vicious!” or “They” this or that. Thank you for going to the root of hatred that dwells within myself, ourselves. A difficult truth, but a place where we can make changes (I was going to say “without turmoil, but then I looked within!).

    Like

  7. Great post! On a more practical level, I have found the national group Indivisible to be a very hands-on guide to information and activism. Initiated immediately after the election, Indivisible produced an activist manifesto for every Congressional district in the U.S. It allows like minded individuals to remain informed of protest or methods of resistance per your own voting district.

    Here is their link: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/

    Like

  8. Thanks, Xochitl, for this difficult, but promising post. I’m going to the vigil at the Capitol in Madison, WI toning at 8 p.m. We all need to take action. And without this post, I wouldn’t have even known about Charlottesville.

    Like

  9. “The thread of a people’s sense of supremacy (power to dominate or defeat) has been woven into the fabric of this colonialist nation from the very beginning of what has come to be known as the United States of America.”

    This is the core of the problem and of course white male supremacy is behind every word and every action this frightful president makes setting a horrific example.

    This culture of hatred is mushrooming into a monstrosity that we can no longer control. It’s evident in every community and yes, in us as individuals as well. Those of us who self reflect are aware, but we are in such a minority that doing anything about this situation seems – well – absurd.

    Like

  10. Xochitl, thanks for posting this thoughtful piece. It’s nearly 10 p.m. I’ve watched some TV coverage of the disturbances in various cities across the U.S., including the coverage of the supremacist leader trying to blame the Charlottesville police……and then those same police had to protect him when the protesters chased him away.

    One thing I’ve noticed: I haven’t seen any women marching among the KKK and Nazis and alt right bullies.
    And I’ve seen lots of women among the protesters. White Male Privilege strikies again?? What do y’all think?

    Every time I see or hear the Troll-in-Chief, all I can think is Lock Him Up. He provokes that privileged attitude we’re seeing in too many places. Ya think??

    Like

    • I think these guys are about white male supremacy and they don’t want to expose “their” women to their violence. However, we must not forget that white married women voted in the majority for Trump. So I suspect a lot of these guys have women at home who by some twisted logic believe their men will protect them from everyone else and who believe their own best interests are to have a man, even a white supremacist man or perhaps esp one of them!!! How we reach these women is a good question.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes there are white women in the KKK (& all the far right/white groups). Many of them are asserting that it isn’t just for stand behind their man reasons.
        It is hard to get accurate assessments on this (or other aspects such as age, income, etc). The Southern Poverty Law Center (& their Klan Watch Project) Publications are one of the best ways I know to keep informed with verifiable data. From them I knew about people like Bannon & the various white hate groups (including far right “Christian Identity” groups years before they burst on the scene in the anti-Obama movements & the Trumpdedumpty campaign & presidency. We need to know about them to resist them.

        Like

  11. I have been giving these events and the responses much thought. I am horrified at what happened, and can barely think about them because I feel pain for those who were struck by the car.

    But here’s part of what’s driving me crazy: many responses from “our” side are in some ways expressing as much hate of the haters as the haters seem to have. How is this helpful to change the status quo that allowed this to happen? Hate begets hate, what gets put out comes back again. Yes, the haters are garnering hate, but then our reponses do the same thing.

    In skimming Xochiitl’s article, some of what I read made me feel ashamed to be a white American. I certainly have white privilege, for which I am thankful for what it gets me, but I also am among the marginalized–abuse survivor, low-income, disabled, elderly. I am well-educated and understand a lot, or at least a bit, about racism in this country and others.

    And, again, but–if I, who am educated and can know how to understand this, feel shame, what does what we say about privilege make the “haters” feel? If we don’t start to understand where their hatred and sense of deprivation come from, how can anything change?

    I agree thoroughly that pitting poor whites against blacks serves the power structure of this, and other, nations. So does pitting really poor and sort of poor people against each other for limited resources.

    I don’t have any answers, but I think we all have to start seeing all of those involved as human, and thus needing understanding and needs met. Heretical, maybe, but that’s my thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with your comments. Yes, “hate begets hate” and I’m dismayed that so many on the ‘left’ are hating as much as many on the ‘right.’ Not only because it feeds the frenzy and, I feel, is ineffective, but it also provides ‘ammunition’ for the ‘right’ — this I see in the women I know who, yes, support(ed) T and the ‘right.’ I’ve tried talking with them, even conceding that my ‘side’ has made mistakes, but, the difference I’ve found is that they concede nothing. They are entrenched, yet maintain they are *not* racist. I wonder if this falls into the category of implicit bias that Mahzarin R. Banaji wrote about in “Blindspot”? Is that why they are unable to realize the racism they are supporting? I know that during this past year, I have spent an enormous amount of time digging up my own biases and admitting the hate (and fear) that lies in myself, in my Shadow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! So many groups are actually doing the work you are calling for. The Pachamama Alliance is mostly all about environmentalism, but it is also about CHANGE. Change of mind and heart. Do the political side! (Citizen’s Climate Lobby, for example), support the Water Warriors, EVOLVE out of a patriarchal mindset or we will never survive as a species! And thank you for mentioning that the wrong stuff is in all of us. Pachamama encourages me to look for and support the good things going on. If we look at social media as the new news outlet, then let’s fill it with GOOD news. While we need to know the bad stuff, we also need to know the other!

        Like

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