“This Isn’t Us”
I’ve seen that phrase a lot over the last couple days — this isn’t us, as if what happened in Charlottesville happened somewhere else, to someone else, in another country, on another planet.
But it didn’t. It happened here.
It didn’t happen here in a vacuum. It did not appear here, as if by random, as if by some Satanic intervention. It wasn’t a comet we didn’t see coming, it wasn’t a disease making a sudden zoonotic jump. This is in our, to borrow and subvert the phrase of those Nazi fucks, blood and soil. This is a nation whose land was stolen brutally and violently from its inhabitants. This is a nation whose backbone was built and straightened by black slaves brought here in chains. We spilled a lot of blood to get here. Blood in the dirt, blood and soil — not as the Nazi fuckos mean it, no, because they mean it to do with pride in their heritage and their white skin and their relationship to the rural land. Theirs is an idealized, beatific version where they’re simultaneously both the heroes and the victims of their own narrative. I mean it that we spilled a lot of blood — not ours — to make this nation, and that blood has soaked the soil, it’s been baked into who we are and where we came from. I mean that at times we have not been the heroes or the victims but rather, the villains in this narrative.
And no, no, I know, before someone out there says it, bite your tongue: please no NOT ME, NOT ALL OF US, I’M NOT LIKE THAT. Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t, but this is the land on which you stand. We are as a nation at our best when we recognize this, when we see the cruelty and viciousness that birthed this country and we work against it. When we struggle to repair what we broke, when we seek to salve the trauma we have brought, when we aim to rebalance the scales of privilege away from those who have it — as I said elsewhere, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing cisgendered non-disabled straight-ass white dudes that they could be victims of oppression. We are at our best not when we say this isn’t us, but rather, this is us, but we don’t want it to be. We are at our best when we are truthful to ourselves and our children as to how we got here and to the cost we made others pay — and the cost we continue to make them pay today.
White supremacy is here.
It’s not just the South.
It’s not just the margins, the fringe.
It isn’t new.
It’s the mortar holding together our bricks. What’s new(ish) is the overtness with which these weak, wormy people display their hate-fueled fake-ass victimization. The hoods are off. But it’s been here all along. More covert. More hidden. Hidden not just under white hoods but in business suits and in arrest records and in bank loans and in the secret language of privilege we speak. It’s been here, stoked by the rich and the powerful, used as a tool — a hack, really — to control the middle and working classes, to convince them that they are the victims of Outsiders, Others, Foreigners, instead of what they really are: dupes, rubes, marks for the con-men.
This is us. This is who we are.
But it’s never too late to change.
And change we must. We must rebuke the Nazis. We must recognize that hate speech is not free speech. We must chase down white supremacy not just as a tool of the emboldened fringe but as a benefit we have all inadvertently claimed by climbing the ladder of privilege built by those who came before us. Some of you may not see it. You may say, But I don’t feel privileged. And maybe, individually, you’re not. But as a group, we are. And even you, the Unprivileged, should ask yourself — if you put on a polo shirt and a red hat and joined a Neo-Nazi rally, what would happen to you? Would the cops beat you? Or would they shield you? If you lifted your hand in a Hitler salute, would the system rebuke you, or support you? Would you end up in jail? Would you get a beating and disappear, or a firm talking-to? Now, what if your skin color were different? Then what? Does that change your calculus? It should. It would. You’d be bloodied. You’d be in jail. Even if all you were doing was standing there with a phone, taking video.
Call it out. Shut it down. It’s trickle-down racism, from the White House down. We have to rip it out by the roots and (metaphorically) burn it.
And we also have to own it.
This is us.
This is America.
It was America 200 years ago.
It was America in the 1930s.
It’s America, today.
We can only fight it if we see it.
* * *
I feel like I’m supposed to do a call to action here — something to do instead of just something to read and to say. First, as a writer, my default call to action is to support marginalized creators. Go the extra distance. Buy and share their work. Don’t be blind to our differences, but celebrate them and elevate them. If you’re an SFF fan, and you’re looking for somewhere to start, I’d ask you to look up these authors and buy from them: Daniel Jose Older, N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Malka Older, Sarah Kuhn, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Saladin Ahmed, Ken Liu, Tananarive Due, Maurice Broaddus, Marjorie Liu, Alyssa Wong, Cassandra Khaw — the list goes on and on, and I’m barely just scratching the surface here. These are incredible storytellers whose work demands to be read.
[Like a ding-dong, I originally recommended you leave suggestions for authors in the comments below, and then helpfully closed comments to stave off Internet fuckwits. D’oh. Still keeping comments closed but will solicit new reading suggestions this week or next, apologies. That list above should get you started!]
You can also put money to the cause:
Hell, Sara Benincasa already did a lot of the work on this one, putting together a fantastic list of where to donate in the wake of recent events.
I’m torn on recommending the ACLU at this point — on the one hand, I recognize that their support for freedom of speech has to by necessity cut both ways, and having principles means sticking to them even when they’re inconvenient. On the other hand, I can’t emotionally get behind cheerleading them for protecting Nazi speech, because you ask me, Nazi speech is hate speech, and hate speech isn’t free.
Also author Celeste Ng talks about contacting your reps, talk to the police, talk to your family, your kids, your friends, everyone.
Be good to each other.
Be better than who we are.
Be better, even more, than who we were and how we got here.
Comments closed, because c’mon.