Heartbroken, But Standing Strong

We at the Feminist Majority have watched with heavy hearts the events that have unfolded over the last week—first in Charlottesville and then in the President’s shameful and dangerous response, especially at Tuesday’s press conference. Words matter, so I wanted to share a few of my own.

The people of all genders, ages, races and backgrounds who turned out on Saturday to defend civil rights and condemn the KKK, neo-Nazis and white nationalists are heroes. They did not deserve to be attacked, and they certainly did not deserve to be vilified by the President who falsely equated their message of social justice with that of white supremacists.

I got my start in social justice fighting against segregation as a college student in North Carolina. I never thought in 2017 that I would still have to fight racism in its ugliest, most naked form.

As we witnessed this weekend’s deadly display of hatred from white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK, my mind went to the millions of people who have been killed, injured, disenfranchised and discarded in the name of these vile ideologies, both in the United States and around the world. Today they want to call themselves the “alt-right,” but their dangerous movement of domestic terrorism could never be rebranded. Protecting the statue of Robert E. Lee was secondary to their stated goals of uniting the right, bringing together many confirmed hate groups from across the country and displaying a show of force in real life, off of the internet. There were not “fine people” marching with the neo-Nazis, KKK and white supremacists under their banners, chanting their slogans and brandishing their weapons. We all see them for who they are. Anyone who doesn’t is employing willful ignorance.

This brings me to President Trump, a man who rose to prominence in the business and political world by advocating racist and violent tactics that bring out the very worst of our society. He has emboldened white supremacists—they say so themselves.

I am disappointed and sad for my country, and honestly, I am shocked by the magnitude at which this extreme hate has contaminated our politics. Trump has placed leaders of the “alt-right” in some of the highest ranking positions of his administration—including Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon.

To all of the Republicans who have expressed disappointment and disgust in the President’s response: I urge you to look at his policies and seriously question if they are rooted in the promotion of white supremacy. From his Muslim ban to his border wall to his dismantling of federal civil rights offices, Trump has shown his determination to attack progress. Republicans cannot continue apologizing for and enabling him without accepting their responsibility to take action.

It will take the heart and soul of the entire country to counter the damage that President Trump has done—and to make clear to white supremacists that momentum is not on their side, society will not tolerate their hate and the voters will not support their leaders.

This is a call to action. We all need to recommit ourselves to making sure we speak out against racism in all of its forms. The world is watching.

Screen shot 2015-02-10 at 5.30.04 PMEleanor Smeal is president of the Feminist Majority.

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