We Are Responsible

12 Aug

I do not live in Charlottesville. I have been there, driven through its streets, walked on its campus. I live about an hour and a half from Charlottesville, but today–every day–I am responsible for the chaos on its streets and in the streets of every American city.

I am white. I was born white, raised in a Midwestern city that is majority white, and work in a predominantly white field (higher education) which could use a lot more color. And I am responsible for what happened today in Charlottesville.

I am not a white nationalist or white supremacist. I abhor both philosophies on a visceral, gut-wrenching level. I detest the alt-right. I vote Democrat 99% of the time, and Green or Libertarian the other 1%. I am an intersectional feminist (thanks, Kimberlé Crenshaw) who supports the rights of transpersons and hopes every day that we will figure out how to stop oppressing people based on skin color, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexuality, or socioeconomic background.

And I am responsible.

I am responsible not because I caused racism to happen or even allowed it to happen, but because I benefit from it. I am responsible not for causing the rise of the alt-right, but because it is my responsibility as a halfway decent human being to do what I can to put a stop to it. To speak out against racism, sexism, and all other -isms and to make it as clear as I possibly can that white supremacy is evil and wrong and is to blame for the racial imbalance in our prison systems, for the disparity in education between predominantly white and minority schools, for genocide and racial profiling and stereotype threat and a hundred other social ills which degrade people for no reason other than the melanin in their skin.

I am responsible for donating money to causes and organizations that will use our legal systems to fight against injustice, to raise my voice and use what little social capital I have to advocate for the hiring of people of color (especially women) into academia so that the faces and voices our students see and hear are diverse. I am responsible for supporting the people of color I know by providing whatever emotional support they need, for supporting creators of color by buying and promoting their work, and for teaching material created by people of color so that my students see that their voices belong in the cannon as much as those of dead white men.

I am responsible for changing the way things are so that when I read the news, I don’t see cars plowing into anti-racism protesters or the bitter faces of angry white men demanding the “right” to oppress everyone else.

I am responsible for refusing to sit back and stay silent.

I am white, and it is my responsibility to end this. Who’s with me?