Can We All Finally Agree That White Supremacy is Bad?
Because It Is... For Everyone.
When I was in 3rd grade Wolfenstein 3D got ported onto the Super Nintendo. I remember renting the cartridge from my local Blockbuster on Friday, and spending the entire weekend with my controller heating up in my hands and my fingers developing blisters as I sent a storm of lead into the pixelated agents of the Third Reich. While charging a brain case cyborg with the face of Adolf Hitler on it with guns blazing and rockets blasting isn't exactly a subtle message, it was one I'd been hearing my whole life.
White supremacy, and those who follow its teachings, must be opposed. Always.
I saw it in comic books where Superman and Black Panther fought against the Ku Klux Klan, and where even villains as despicable as the Joker refused to work alongside a genuine Nazi like the Red Skull. I saw it in movies where a college professor named Indiana Jones went toe-to-toe with Axis forces who were trying to steal the relics and powers from two of the religions they were actively persecuting. From Star Trek to Star Wars, the fascists, eugenicists, and racial purists were clearly drawn as the bad guys, and they were punched, blasted, and cut to pieces with laser swords.
As I got older, and consumed more media, the message didn't change... it only got darker. The sins of slavery were drawn out in full technicolor, and the atrocities of the fascists in Germany were used as fodder for dozens of horror movies. Even in more complex films like American History X the message was clear; white supremacy is the closest thing we have to genuine evil in this world.
So, tell me, how the hell did so many other people miss the goddamn boat on this one?
How Did You Not Notice?
Anyone that's studied sociology and history in America can tell you that a lot of white supremacist ideas are baked into the society all around us. From the practice of redlining, which steered people of color into specific communities and created de facto segregation that has lasted for generations, to how cops in schools are responsible for disproportionate harm done to black students, there are things that happen in the background every day. If you aren't paying attention to the news, or doing any digging, it's quite possible to walk right past those camouflaged harms because they've always been there, and you've never really noticed them.
Those aren't the things I'm talking about. Those are bad, and we should be working to dismantle them, but I'm talking about the really obvious stuff. Because I can tell you that if I showed up to listen to a political figure talk, and a group of guys wearing shirts mocking the Holocaust showed up (the infamous "6 Million Wasn't Enough" and "Camp Auschwitz" pictures we saw from the Proud Boys and Trump supporters at the insurrection at the Capitol), I would take a moment to ask why I was sharing space with white supremacists. If I wanted to buy some merch to support a candidate, and the booth also had the Confederate flag (or the battle flag of the army of Northern Virginia if you want to be pedantic) along with a Nazi flag, I would probably question why those symbols were being flown in accordance with my candidate of choice. If an infamous figure that's a mouthpiece of the KKK starts warmly endorsing my candidate, and supporting what he's doing, I would ask why David Duke and I were ever on the same page for something.
Because there's no ducking responsibility for that. There's no claiming you couldn't hear the dog whistles, and you were just voting for family values, or good business practices, or lower taxes. When the white supremacists show up in their uniforms, complete with all the symbols and rhetoric we all know, you don't get to say you didn't recognize the signs.
You knew what they were. The real question is why were you standing on their side of the line?
Give Me The Knife
To paraphrase Neil Gaiman's re-telling in Norse Mythology, the All Father Odin sought a drink from the enchanted well of wisdom. Mimir, the well's keeper, demanded Odin sacrifice an eye for it. He did not argue that the price was too high. He did not shout about how he was entitled to what he wanted, or demand that he be given it for the good of all. He simply asked if Mimir cared which eye, then held out his hand and asked for a knife.
That is where we are right now.
I don't mean this in a vague sense, either. An airy, collective, non-specific "we should all just do our best" sense. I mean you, the person reading this, as well as me. We need to pick up that knife, and cut out the infection wherever we find it so that we do not feed it; so that it cannot corrupt any more of our lives, our homes, and our nation. We need to do what we should have done centuries ago and put white supremacy in the dustbin of history, and light it on fire to be sure it never comes back.
No more tolerance. Tolerance is what emboldens them, and leads to the kind of events we've all born witness to over the past several years. If you have friends who wear that Confederate battle flag because they think it's funny to upset other people, explain to them that it's not a joke to parade around a rag associated with racism and the klan. Make it clear that it's their symbol, or your friendship, they can't have both. If your uncle, your aunt, your grandfather, or any other family member throws around racist language, spouts nonsense conspiracies, or holds forth about how "those people" need to be treated as lesser, push back on it. Persuade them to challenge those ideas. If they aren't willing to do better, then make it clear it's their rhetoric, or your presence in their life; they cannot have both.
This goes beyond just the people you see everyday. If you find out an artist, actor, or creator whose work you have enjoyed holds racist attitudes (or, at the very least, is comfortable with white supremacists rocking out to their work) stop supporting them. Don't buy their albums, don't watch their videos, yank any crowdfunding you were providing. If a politician says or does something racist, raise your voice against it. Send letters, donate to causes, show up to protests, and do not let this slide. Pay attention to who your votes and donations go to beyond the letter next to their name.
And, most importantly, look at yourself and the messages you send out into the world. As long as you can do so safely, send messages that white supremacy is not welcome in your sphere, and that you will not tolerate it. Wear a Black Lives Matter face mask when you're out at the grocery store. Get a There Are No Nazis in Valhalla tee shirt, and make it clear you are not willing to tolerate misuse of Norse symbols by white power groups. And if you have said things, done things, or participated in white supremacist behaviors in the past, do not excoriate yourself for it. That doesn't help anyone. Instead, be better. Educate yourself, and those around you, so that you can move past it.
Wisdom is painful, sometimes. But the time is long past to cut out this infection so we can start to genuinely heal.
Would You Like More?
While my full Vocal archive is often dedicated to geekery, gaming, and genre fiction, I'm trying to use what voice I have to speak out against the problems that I see. If this is the sort of content you'd like more of, might I recommend the following: