I don’t know when you will read this, or if that day will ever come, but I want to know that I am actively trying to avoid raising you to be white supremacists.
Last week, August 11th-13th, 2017, there was a series of events in which white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and self-acclaimed members of alt-right groups marched in Charlottesville, VA and exercised what they felt to be a right under our constitution’s first amendment. They came in a very large group, holding tiki torches, and surrounded a statue of General Robert E. Lee, a man who they felt represented a part of history that they wanted to preserve. This is not the whole story here, but I’m certain you will have heard about it by now.
What you don’t see in that image is that these men are chanting hateful things, vile things, like“Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” as they made the ascent to the statue that cheers a racist general who fought on the side of maintaining slavery. Also, the irony is thick: “After the Civil War, Lee resisted efforts to build Confederate monuments in his honor and instead wanted the nation to move on from the Civil War.” (Washington Post) That monument was erected in the 1924, well after Lee had died, yet those who are marching feel it pertinent to preserve that reminder of our nation’s history.
And you will hear those things; how will you react?
In Kindergarten, you were the only white male in your class and it was fulfilling to have you come home and describe your friends using every facet other than the color of their skin or their apparent country of origin. In fact, when you would watch baseball games, I almost corrected you a couple times when you asked if we wanted “the black guys to win or the white guys to win” before realizing you were talking about the color of their jersey and not the color of their skin.
It reminds me of something that former president Barack Obama tweeted out, and I think you currently embody quite well:
At some point, probably now that you’re reading this, you will realize that you have a much larger plate to fill.
What really scares me is that, in the picture of torch-wielding protesters, I assume very few of them were raised by white supremacists to be white supremacists in a white supremacist neighborhood that projected white supremacist ideology. Something happened along their timeline of learning that triggered them to follow an ideal so blasphemous, so hateful, to fly from all over the country to defend a despicable position.
What is stopping you boys from reading something that will cause you to lean in and listen to a position that your mother and I have kept you from for so long?
What is stopping you from looking at a picture showcasing white supremacy and thinking, yeah, I look like them?
What is stopping you from joining a movement rooted in hate and oppression?
Your lineage has survived Auschwitz, escaped World War, and rose from poverty, but none of that carries weight in the decisions you will make in your own life for your own path. With that, here is what I hope you will do:
Listen to--and learn from--all sides, not matter how difficult it may be. When something comes to you that does not appear right, listen. When someone challenges your beliefs, listen. When lines are drawn and sides are taken, be sure to listen to all of them. Because, as passionate as you are about your stance, the “other side” is just as passionate about theirs. Why is that? Can you find something in their rationale that gives you an entry point for respectable conversation? Maybe, maybe not.
Right now, while you are young, your mother and I are keeping you in a fairly politically-sterile environment. Truth be told, I didn’t really care about politics until I was in my late-20’s. As you get older, we will expose you to more, then talk to you about what we believe is right and giving a rationale for such beliefs.
Ultimately, it will be up to you to choose where you stand, and we can only hope and pray that you choose to stand on the side of inclusivity, respect, and compassion.
Rather than hoisting a torch and shouting hate, we hope that you raise a candle and lend a hand.
Rather than taking a side and sticking to it, we hope that you listen to many positions and base your decision on the moral compass pointed toward civility.
Rather than joining white supremacy, we hope that you join in the efforts to end oppression.
Rather than giving up as you wrestle with your privilege, we hope that you embrace it and use it for good (like my friends Karl and Matt have done).
Your mother and I love you, boys. Know that.
A concerned, but hopeful, father