Originally posted to Facebook… but some things should be said publicly:
I’ve been writing and rewriting this post trying to find words strong enough to condemn the violence that cost lives in Charlottesville yesterday, the growing realization that racism and bigotry aren’t ever going to just die out as an older generation gives way to the next, but must be stamped out, and the shock that we live in a time when so many people are comfortable with their own racism that they’re literally using Nazi symbols.
There are no words to adequately capture the outrage/fear/despair that comes not just from what happened in Charlottesville yesterday, but what’s been happening in America for centuries and what’s been so much more out in the open the open over the past year than it has been in decades.
Yesterday while the violence broke out in Charlottesville, we gathered with a group of friends we’ve met while producing The Loving Project and celebrated diversity, inclusiveness, and love that doesn’t just cross boundaries, but breaks them down.
One quote from an upcoming episode particular sticks with me right now, from a white woman who grew up in a multiracial family with relatives who had married outside their race, so that she has cousins who are black, Asian, and Mexican:
“I think that when you grow up loving someone unconditionally as family and that that that looks like different races, it’s nice. I appreciate having grown up like that.
I didn’t realize that was not common until I was older. I just always thought that it was.”
It’s nice to be reminded that those who are not exposed to hate in early life grow up to respect diversity. It’s nice being able to gather with a group of like-minded people to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that made marriages like ours legal, and the much more recent decision that made it legal for LGBTQIA couples to marry.
But it’s also frightening to realize that we’re living in a bubble and that the hatred and bigotry that had been underground in this country has come out I to the open. In some ways, maybe it’s more honest this way. We cannot pretend it’s not there. It’s always been there.
What’s dismaying is the white Americans who make apologies for the literal Nazis marching in our streets. People who claim that they’re not racist, but voted for a candidate who has yet to condemn an act of terrorism by white supremacists and showed every indication during the campaign that this would be his approach.
During every interview we’ve done for The Loving Project, we ask people to reflect on their thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the ruling. If we’d conducted interviews for the podcast a few years ago, I have no doubt we would be drowning in stories about how far we’d come. Instead, celebrating this anniversary in there era of Trump and “white nationalism,” we’ve recorded a lot of interviews with people telling us they used to believe we’d come so far…
Honestly, they put it better than I ever can. Maybe when I said there are no words, I meant I have no words. But that’s not quite true. Because a generous group of individuals had lent me theirs and it’s been a privilege to share them.
Sharing these stories has been what’s kept me sane this year. Celebrating with some of these families this weekend was a joy… But it doesn’t cover the heartache of realizing that love has not yet trumped hate in this country and that we still have a long way to go…
Addendum: I realize that some of these thoughts above come from place of privilege. I’ve been privileged to be able to not see as much hate in the world as there is. I’ve been privileged not to have to fear for my life upon every encounter with police. I’ve been privileged not to worry that my name alone will prevent me from getting a job. I’ve been privileged to benefit from hundreds of years of society not holding me back because of the color of my skin.
And I haven’t had to deal with a lifetime of systematic racism, and the hundreds of years of oppression of my ancestors who were ripped from their homes and brought to this country only to be told that somehow I’m trying to “replace” white Americans.
I don’t want to see a silver lining to what’s happening right now. But I hope that if there is any good to come of the rise in visibility of white supremacists in this country, it’s that those who align themselves politically with these groups will take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask if they want to continue contributing to bigotry in either the overt manner we’re seeing this weekend or the covert manner we’ve seen since the founding of this country.
I do believe that while words along are not enough to end the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia that are gripping the nation, stories are powerful tools for opening people’s minds to new ideas.