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Charlottesville: It Is Time to Disempower and Defeat White Supremacy

[caption id="attachment_4632" align="alignright" width="200"] Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP[/caption] I had prepared a different blog this month, ready to hit the send button, but the events in Charlottesville, VA, this past weekend made me rethink it. The death and injuries in Charlottesville were a direct result of white supremacists, a.k.a. domestic terrorists. No mistaking it as anything else. The legal protest was called because of the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a hero to the supremacists, and an open threat and reminder of brutality to so many others. The march was clearly a conspicuous display of white supremacy aimed at demonstrating unfettered racism and an in-your-face attack on blacks, Jews, and other minorities. The person who drove a car that pushed another car through a crowd of counter protesters was no accident; it was a deliberate act of murder.  At least 34 people were hurt, Heather D. Heyer, 32, was killed and two Virginia State Troopers, H. Jay Cullen, 48,  and Berke Bates, 40, died in a helicopter crash while on duty that day. So much of the race problem in America was laid bare in Charlottesville. It may be legal to publicly express your views in this country, but as so many political leaders and commentators expressed it, it is unacceptable to be a white supremacist, Neo-nazi in America. This could not be more clear and I could not agree more. You should too. Under the banner of free speech, hate speech is nothing more than hate and it not American. It is against everything we value as Americans, whether Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist and President Trump should be saying just that, clearly, and unequivocally. He is not. White supremacy is white privilege on steroids. We need to call it for what it is and recognize that different forms of white supremacy have led to a perpetuation of inequality economically, socially, politically, in education, in health care, and under the law for African Americans since 1619. White supremacy, a perceived entitlement, led to the violence in Charlottesville, a supremacy that the KKK uses to perpetrate violence against blacks. Fueled by an irrational fear of being overwhelmed by people who do not look like them, the KKK has been emboldened by the rise of the Alt-right, empowered by the silence of the Republican Party and by the flaccid leadership of Mr. Trump, who has said nothing to disavow the actions of the Klan in Charlottesville. These are the people who helped get Mr. Trump elected.

As people who embrace nonviolence and the pursuit of peace, we must find ways to disempower and defeat thugs who are clearly engaging in domestic terrorism. We have to treat it as a threat to national security and an assault on the fundamental values we hold of human dignity, freedom, and security.

How do we do this? I suggest two ways. First, remind yourself of the values we stand on by listening to this excerpt from the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech of Dr. Martin Luther King. You will surely remember and be inspired.

Secondly, speak up. Call, write, email your elected leaders to publicly condemn white supremacy as a hate crime and thank them if they have already made a public statement. It is time to call it like it is and prosecute the KKK and other hate groups as domestic terrorists. Urge your representatives to push for prosecution. Being people of peace, we espouse non-violence. But nonviolence is not weakness.  It takes great courage to denounce hate and the rise of hate demands a strong clear voice that stands up for everyone who lives here no matter how they came here. Can you sense that I am angry? Yes, I am. Today I contacted my congressional representatives and governor’s offices to thank them for speaking out against this violence (which they all have done clearly and without hesitation). I encourage you to do the same wherever you live and make the voices of peace and nonviolence heard. Nonviolent responses to evil are not easy or swift, and we need to be in this for the long haul to disempower hate.

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