“They want to take away OUR history and heritage.”—President Donald Trump in Phoenix, Arizona.
Whose history and heritage is he talking about?
Is he talking about African American history and heritage?
Is he talking about the history and heritage of Jewish people?
I’ll give you a hint. It’s not about the statues. Not really.
It’s not about preserving a culture. One could point out that there is no such thing as “white culture,” unless you think skin pigmentation has its own set of norms passed from one generation to the next.
It’s not about erasing history. Most reasonable people aren’t suggesting making the statues (and the history they represent) disappear. They are asking that they be moved to more appropriate places—museums.
It’s not about silencing free speech. You can go ahead and boldly proclaim for the world that you are a bigot. No one’s stopping you.
Let’s be very clear. What happened at Charlottesville, Virginia was all about the alt-right, white supremacy and neo-Nazism.
The dictionary definition of a white supremacist: a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.
The dictionary definition of a neo-Nazi: a member of a group espousing the programs and policies of Hitler’s Nazis.
The participants in that shameful march on the University of Virginia campus carried flaming torches as an homage to the Ku Klux Klan. And okay, it was kind of stupid that they were tiki torches, but we all understood their message loud and clear.
The next day in Charlottesville (poor Charlottesville!) they waved Confederate flags, symbol of the fight to keep black people enslaved.
They proudly displayed Nazi swastikas on flags and on clothing.
And Heather Heyer lost her life protesting the hate.
All of this is sad, infuriating and disturbing. But what makes it all the more frightening and why all Americans should wake up is this—the president of the United States is okay with it. He’s okay with the so-called alt-right, the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis. One tell was his use of the phrase, “our history and heritage,” which echoes the words of white nationalists. His refusal to immediately and unequivocally condemn the racist violence and racist groups at Charlottesville,
He’s okay with the so-called alt-right, the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis. One tell was his use of the phrase, “our history and heritage,” which echoes the words of white nationalists. His refusal to immediately and unequivocally condemn the racist violence and racist groups at Charlottesville, instead laying blame “on all sides,” was celebrated by emboldened racists all across the country.
So no. It’s not about the statues.
The statues are a convenient rallying point for people who need a socially acceptable way to declare their beliefs. Those beliefs do not embrace African Americans or Jews. Or gays. Or Mexicans. Or Muslims, or First Nation people.
And to be clear, they don’t embrace me, an American of Asian descent. They do not love my mixed-race family or friends or the majority of our beautiful brown people in Hawaii.
I remember the hope I felt when Barack Obama was nominated for president. It was, I believed then, a turning point for our country. Here’s what I wrote about that historic day in 2008: “We (my son and I) watched Barack Obama’s victory speech together. He thought it was interesting, but he knew it was historic only because I told him so. He didn’t get the thrill I got watching the first African American nominee for president of the United States. I have to admit I cried. I was proud of Obama and of our country. I wanted my son to realize just how much this will mean to him as a person of mixed race in a nation that has struggled – and struggles still – to mesh reality with ideals.”
Fast forward to 2017. I found myself crying again, and this time not for joy. But I do take heart in seeing millions of Americans– black, brown and white– refusing to accept the extinguishing of the light. After all, it’s OUR country, OUR history, and OUR heritage, too.