This morning, as I opened my Facebook and saw the news, I grieved a little. I saw the rightful denouncement of this event by a local pastor. I saw the urging of a seminarian for White conservative Christians to speak out against the Alt-Right. I also saw the news articles themselves and something there stood out to me.
In amongst the list of slogans chanted was one phrase that stood out to me as the real heart of the movement:
"You will not replace us."That's the real fear - impotence and irrelevance, the loss of relevance, weight, prestige, and power in society. Now, I say this not to pardon this movement or to beg clemency for them. No, I want to speak directly to the heart of the movement, to my fellow White brothers and sisters who may hold this fear in their hearts.
You are not being replaced.
Just because our society seeks to uplift members of our society who were previously denied any affirmation, exhortation, or agency does not mean that our society says we are now worthless. To put it another way, if my boss decides to praise my coworker for something he or she did, that does not mean that I am inferior.
To celebrate Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian history and culture does not mean our White history and culture is irrelevant. We need to instead change the view that we don't have any history and culture, that White American culture is null or nonexistent and that any celebration of a culture not our own erases any presence of our "non-culture" or "non-history."
To use an analogy, it's like trying to draw with a white crayon on white paper - of course it's not visible, unlike the black, brown, green, red, or other coloured crayons, which can lead to the perspective that the white paper is being covered over or drowned out by these other colours. At the same time, if we were to use a black piece of paper, the black crayon would be equally invisible. We need to stop looking at the white crayon on the white paper and see the white crayon in the box with the other crayons.
Practically, that means we need to actually look at our American culture and see where our Whiteness is distinct from it.
That means celebrating White heroes and historical figures who were a force for good.
That means remembering the acts and misdeeds of White men and women who wrought much evil.
That means celebrating our white quirks, many of them regional, like the fact that some of us are so white we need "moonscreen", or embracing the dad jokes and polos tucked into khaki shorts.
Until we can recognise and embrace both the positive and negative in our culture and history, until we can actually see our heritage and recognise it, we will be constantly running in circles, like a hamster on a wheel.
But let me also add something more important. If our entire identity is based on our Whiteness, our Blackness, our Conservative ideology, our Progressive ideology, our Hetero- or Homosexuality, then these issues will always devolve into identity debates - groups of people shouting "See me!"at one another.
On the other hand, if we base our identity on something that transcends race, politics, gender, nationality, something like our identity in God, then we are able to debate these issues, not as opposing enemies, but as fellow brothers and sisters, as one family under God, secure in our identity under God to be able to discuss and debate the smaller matters of race, politics, and gender.
In closing, to my brothers and sisters in the ranks of the Alt-Right: I love y'all. I'm praying for you and, as much as I may speak out against what you espouse and believe, I do not see you as subhuman and I would love to sit and have a chat with you, to learn where you come from and what fears you have.
To my brothers and sisters outside of the Alt-Right movement: I love y'all too and I encourage you to do the same, to open the conversation in love, to see the members of this movement not as racist bigots and monsters, but as flesh-and-blood humans like yourselves who have families and fears. Are there genuinely bad eggs in the lot? Sure, but the same can be said of y'all, too.