- Last week began with news about pipe bombs being sent to Democratic leaders and news agencies. When a suspect was arrested on Friday he turned out to have a long history of racist, homophobic hate speech to his credit.
- In the middle of the week, and largely lost in the attention paid to the pipe bomb story, was an attack on black shoppers at a Kroger supermarket in Kentucky by a white man who had first tried and failed to attack a black church. At the supermarket he was heard yelling that whites don’t kill whites before he killed two people. Like many suspects in similar crimes, the man arrested for this one was a white male with a history of domestic violence.
- And then on Saturday came the attack that killed 11 Jewish senior citizens at a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood Pittsburgh. That shooter is reported to have yelled “All Jews must die” before taking nearly a dozen lives. He, too, had a long history of hate speech recorded on social media.
- During all of this, a caravan of asylum-seekers was crossing Mexico, fleeing political and gang violence in Honduras, making its way toward a conflict with a president who characterizes immigrants as criminals instead of as people seeking freedom.
- And right before all this, the Department of Health and Human services announced a policy it hopes other government agencies will adopt, which will define out of existence over a million people in the United States by imposing a definition sex that even biologists don’t support.
These are life & death issues. We’re living through a period where white supremacy is not only the structural reality of our social and economic system – something that was invisible to many of us who benefited because of being understood as white, but now it is also normalized by a president who routinely spouts hate-filled racist and nationalist rhetoric at rallies where it is celebrated by his followers. The only good news in this is that many for whom white supremacy was invisible are now seeing it vividly and cannot ignore it.
So, what can you do about it? I mean you, specifically, as an individual who wants to make the world – or at least a small corner of it – better? Here’s a short list, in no particular order. You don’t have to do everything. Just do something:
- Name the problem. Words like white supremacy, capitalist patriarchy, cissexism, heterosexism, fascism, and other such labels might feel too academic, but they describe exactly what we are facing, and if we can’t name it we can’t fix it.
- Vote. The midterm elections are in just a few days. I know that there aren’t as many progressive, anti-racist, justice-inspiring candidates as we’d like, but this time around you have to vote against hate even if you can’t vote in support of love and justice just yet. (Note: Some of you can, and hopefully soon more of us will be able to do the same.)
- Take care of yourself. Remember the airplane safety lecture: In case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, always put on your own mask before helping the person beside you. We’re experiencing a tremendous loss of cabin pressure, and we each need to be able to breath if we’re going to save ourselves from crashing. Drink water. Eat things that your body likes. Make time for sleep. Hug friends and family.
- Resist. Attend rallies, vigils, and protests. Find organizations near you that are already doing this work, and join them. It’s so important that the hate and violence – and the slide towards fascism promoted by the president – not be normalized.
- Love each other. I know this might sound trivial, but it is exactly the opposite. Love is a radical act. It can propel us to take breathtaking risk and to protect one another. We need to do both.