What Should God’s People Be Doing About Charlottesville?

On Saturday, August 12th, 2017, hundreds of white supremacists, KKK members, neo-Nazis and alternative-right trolls gathered together in Charlottesville, Virginia to hold a “rally” to “Unite the Right” and support “free speech.”

A lot of quotation marks – I know.

But there is power in language and it is difficult to watch a dangerous and violent riot be labeled as a “rally” or hate in the form of racial and anti-semitic slander be defined as free speech. Let’s call it what it is – what our president could not. Domestic terrorism in the form of white supremacy.

Given the social media obsessed culture we live in, it comes as no surprise that there are already trending hashtags in the response to the heinous acts committed a little over twenty-four hours ago.

One of the most popular hashtags trending is #thisisnotus.

I understand the sentiment behind this hashtag. No one wants to claim these white men and women who marched with tiki torches from Home Depot looking like extras out of the movie Pleasantville. No one wants to believe that the evil that called for genocide and ethnic cleansing yesterday is a part of them or the nation they live in – especially if they are already struggling with white guilt.

We can act as though we slept through US History, World History, and the last presidential election – but it won’t change the fact that this is not new. This IS us.

This “rally” was the third white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville in the last four months. This was not a one-time occurrence. This was not a mistake. This was the results of America brushing racial disparities under the rug for too long.

We need to start paying attention. We need to start taking ownership and admitting what this nation was built on.

One of the other hashtags I’ve seen trending came after a post that named and identified some of the photographed men specifically. #punchanazi

I understand the righteous and justified anger that comes after an atrocity like the one that happened yesterday in Charlottesville. I know what it is for your blood to boil and bubble inside.

I know the names that come to mind. Sandra Bland. Mike Brown. Freddie Gray. Philando Castile. Names we should never have written into our hearts and minds, not under these circumstances.

I know what it is to feel rage so hot that it pushes tears out of your eyes. And it is natural for that rage to elicit the desire for violence, for retribution in the face of ignorance and hate.

But two wrongs don’t make a right. Violence is not the answer. Condescending insults and commentary are not the answers. Instead, these reactions will continue to bring us through a vicious cycle of pain and heartbreak. We will not just lose sleep. We will lose valuable members of our community. We will have to continue to hear the same narratives repeated and we will be bombarded with an onset of new names.

The only answer to hate is love.

I’m reminded of a beautiful thought piece that was written by Gail M. Dottin in the aftermath of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting titled, “Orlando, Made Me Love You Dammit!” Gail talks about her rage over the nightclub shooting as a Black Latina lesbian and she also details her response to the extremists that damned her to hell at the New York Dyke March.

“So block after block I found myself going to those damning me to Hades, forecasting my impending end with their bible verses on four-foot tall banners, to look them in the face and tell them that I loved them, that nothing will stop me from loving them. The idea of hugging one of them banged around for a while but I was afraid I’d break down, crumple on the asphalt at the foot of a bible thumper. Because in the face of a massacre, in the presence of hate — the Islamaphobic media, ISIS, the resolute ministers who stood in pulpits to coolly declare that the dead got what they deserve — goddammit, it always comes back to love, doesn’t it? Shit. I don’t even really want to type those words because it seems so Hallmark. Really, what kind of cotton candy bullshit am I saying? But I felt powerless to do anything else but love them. The taunting is entertaining but loving them frees me. And I have to be free. They don’t get to win me. The shooter doesn’t get to win.”

So what should God’s people be doing about what happened in Charlottesville?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question, especially as I entered and left a church service today that actually prayed over the racial disparity in America – something I was not expecting. Something I have not experienced in my lifetime relationship with God and different churches.

I’ve come to the conclusion that as believers we should be:

  1. Openly condemning the actions of individuals involved in the white supremacy riot that led to the murder of one, physical injury of some and emotional and mental chaos caused in hundreds of thousands of others.
  2. Praying. Day in and day out. We should be praying for the healing of this nation and for the repentance and confession of these lost individuals.
  3. Keeping ourselves informed as to what is happening and what kinds of practical solutions we can be a part of.

The only remedy to the unrest in this country, in this world, is love. As Hallmark as that may sound.

We need mothers and fathers. We need students and teachers. We need lawyers, engineers, community organizers and all other professionals working in our communities. And we need them to be working with a spirit of revolutionary love ticking inside of them like a pendulum.

So who are you and what are you going to do about it?


***This is essay 26 in the #52essays2017 challenge created by Vanessa Mártir.

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