I AM NOT THEM
No one asked, but I don't care. My thoughts on Charlottesville.
I can’t go another day without reflecting on the horrors that played out in Virginia on Friday night and Saturday. Many others have already written with far more elegance and grace than I am capable about the ugliest face of white America revealing itself with such confidence and boldness that hoods are no longer in fashion. Proud, angry, racists. Racists. Racists.
Nothing I can write here in my lovely office in my peaceful neighborhood, removed from anything resembling conflict, can compare to the ACTIONS of my long time friend, Rev. Steven Martin. As director of communications for the National Council of Churches in Washington, D.C., producer of their podcast, photographer, documentary film maker, among many other roles, Steve lives his faith every day in a way most of us would never consider. Risk averse, we sit in our comfy homes, look at pictures on social media, and cheer the do-good people on. Steve is the do-good person out there bringing his passion and belief in a world where all people are equal in the eyes of God, in the eyes of government, in the eyes of each one of us, and putting that faith, literally, on the line. So there he was, in Charlottesville, camera at the ready to help tell the story, arm in arm with clergy from across the nation, in the most real and present way saying to the RACISTS within arms reach of him, WE ARE THE REAL FACE OF AMERICA.
I am as white as they come. I’m a white boy from East Tennessee. I attended public schools that were, at that time, nearly all white. I do not recognize these people in Charlottesville, claiming to be speaking for me, claiming to be defending my white life, my white values, my need for white skin to somehow be respected more than other colors. I do not recognize their evil and their distorted, uneducated world view. I am as white as they come. And I AM NOT THEM!
I want my friends to know this. I want my white friends to know this. I want them to know that if they feel similarly to the monsters who created, planned, and carried out “Unite the Right”, they need help dealing with a narrative into which they have bought, hook, line, and sinker, that is neither true, real, Christian, or American. I want them to sit with me, talk to me, talk to a few of my friends, to my wife, let us tell you about the freedom that can come from letting go the anger, the untrue message that you, white people, are being attacked by forces hell bent on the destruction of the race. Millions of us who know these things to be untrue can help you. We can love you to a place where you no longer see perceived persecution that isn’t really there. It’s possible. Come talk to me.
Mostly, however, I want to say to my black friends, like Julius Blue, Wendel Werner, Eric Blue, Darrel and Trey with whom I work every day, and many others: THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE!! The hate-filled narrow-mindedness of those leading and following in Charlottesville is a cancerous, diseased version of my race, and I AM NOT THEM.
I want to say to my Mexican friends, like Santiago Minor, this is not who we are. This is not who America is. The vast majority of us love you, Santiago, and your children and your friends. The vast majority of us love the richness and flavor of your culture, your dedication to family, your light spirit and love for life. I want you to know I AM NOT THEM.
I want my Sikh friends, like Rai Kaur Khalsa, to know this intolerance of religions that look different from the way the religion of most East Tennesseans looks, this fear of Christianity somehow being stolen or eradicated along with Christmas and Easter, this unfounded and ridiculous agenda of attacks against the word ‘inclusive’, THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. I AM NOT THEM.
I want to say to my gay and lesbian friends, like Jeff, Gary and Bruce, Rich and Gerard, Steve and Antonio, Donna, Jan, Tena, Beaver, Jay, and so many more, I want to say most of us heterosexual white boys from East Tennessee love you, want you in our lives, we never even consider your sexuality relevant to your worthiness as a friend, a co-worker, a contributor to society, God’s children. I AM NOT THEM.
But my voice is drowned out by the ever louder, ever more embolden, ever more dangerous among us who feel they have nothing to lose, that this is the time, this is the right time for violence in the name of white-ness to come forth. I can not sit in my comfortable house and say nothing. I have to speak up. I have to say that the heinous, criminal, shallow, diseased white people claiming to be my people, are nothing. They are nothing. They are nothing.
Lastly I want to say something to my friends, friends I love deeply, with whom I dine and hug and revel in their joys and accomplishments, feel their pains and disappointments, close, amazing friends who happen to be on what has been commonly called the right side of the American political spectrum. My Republican leaning, right leaning friends who are white. This “rally”, this gathering of like minded hatred in Virginia, had a title. They called this “Unite the Right”. I know this much; I know that none of my Republican friends would be caught up in such nonsense. I know the people who put this “rally” on do not represent my friends’ values, view of the world, religion, or thinking. I have many, many friends that disagree with me about social issues, government spending, insurance, and all the other hard political issues of the day, but I know none of them to be the kind of person capable of such hatred and contempt.
But here’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to see my friends who lean right come out and disavow, openly and strongly, the brand of “right” seen in Virginia. I would like to see all of my clear-headed, reasonable, deep thinking Republican friends say to all of us and to the RACISTS CLAIMING YOUR POLITICAL POSITION, I would like to see you rebuke these thoughts, these actions, this dangerous and wrong world view. Being a racist asshole is not a Republican or Democrat thing. It’s a human thing. I want to see the real “right”, the real thoughtful people I know, reclaim your position. I want you to speak truth to evil. I want you to put on a proud display of what it really means to be an actual conservative who doesn’t believe white people are superior to any other race. I sure would like to hear you stand up and say, I AM NOT THEM.
We have to be louder than them. We have to love harder than them. We have to stand up to them. We have to show ourselves capable of seeking and hearing truth, even when the truth of something differs from our expectations, our script. I am a white American, and I weep for the victims of my people. I weep for the intolerance from my people. I weep for the REAL victims of oppression at the hands of my people. And I weep for the souls of those confused about what a caring, loving, strong, human looks like. They have lost the vision of humanity. I am not them.