August 14, 2018
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
--MLK, Strength to Love, 1963
This past Sunday was the one year anniversary of Charlottesville.
White supremacist groups announced plans months ago to hold a one-year anniversary rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, August 12. Due to changing logistics and heavy pressure from counter-protestors since last year's rally in Charlottesville, only two dozen white supremacists showed up at the rally point in DC . In brief interviews, a few rally attendees agreed that many people stayed home due to the outrage expressed over last year's rally in Charlottesville and the tragic death of Heather Heyer.
Truly, the pressure and presence of anti-racists derailed the original intention of this rally. However, these rally attendees will return to their communities and homes. They will join other like-minded people who are interested in preserving a white identity and white culture in their communities. A rally may have been derailed, yet, their intention to normalize the racist ideology of white dominance into our culture has not dampened.
My concern is that we will be satisfied with the failure of this particular white supremacist rally, and begin to slowly dismiss the white supremacist movement as rudderless and defanged. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The movement to institutionalize white supremacy has been active for centuries, and it has survived by evolving, finding ways to normalize and encase itself in our culture. White supremacy does not have to be concentrated and violent to be have a devastating impact on our national consciousness; it only needs to be insidiously present to spread. Recently on a Fox News program, Laura Ingraham bemoaned losing the "America that we know and love," saying "it doesn't exist anymore" due to "massive changing demographics" impacted by immigration. Locally, community groups are reporting recruiting posters near middle schools posted by a white supremacy group that is working to preserve "white identity" and a "Western culture."
The lesson from the DC rally is that continued pressure from anti-racists and people committed to creating communities for ALL people can change public behavior. However, it does not change how people believe, think nor what they may do in the future. What can we do?
1. Education is the primary tool we can use to combat the spread of white supremacist ideology. With the presence of so much false information widely available, we need to be especially attentive to the source of our information and apply critical thinking skills. Begin by educating your children and youth on the differences between white nationalism and patriotism. Dylan Roof, the infamous white supremacist who killed 9 African American people in a church Bible Study, says his white supremacist ideology developed when he found false information on "black on white crimes" on the internet. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have done an excellent job in building educational resources on white supremacy in the US.
2. Responding to every instance of hate, white nationalism and supremacy requires attention and a willingness to step outside of our comfort zones. This means we must learn to quickly identify when a comment or action is predicated on white supremacist ideology, and then hold others accountable to their actions and words. If you are interested in learning how to be respond effectively to racism and white supremacy, I highly recommend the Undoing Racism workshop by the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond.
3. Develop a community plan to respond to hate. Just as every school, house of worship or office building has an action plan in case of an emergency, communities can have an action plan to respond to hate. I invite you to join me for a special Beloved Community Dinner gathering to share tools, best practices, and develop a plan for your community's response plan on August 27, 6pm at Memorial United Methodist Church in White Plains, NY.
4. Focus on Love. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. invited white Americans to join the struggle for Civil Rights for black Americans because he believed "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are tied up in a single garment of destiny, caught in an unescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly, affects the other indirectly." (Letter from a Birmingham Jail) His invitation came directly from his foundational understanding of love for God and love for his neighbor (Mark 12:30-31, the Bible). The premise of Dr. King's method of nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement is rooted deeply and squarely in love for the oppressed as well as for the oppressor, inviting everyone to change a system of oppression while shedding ideologies of dominance and supremacy.
Love is our driving force to overcome hate. White supremacy cannot overcome us if we are centered in love.
In Solidarity with you,
Rev. Doris K. Dalton Executive Director, MLK Institute for Nonviolence