Photography used above is by Jason Lappa for The New York Times.
I had to take a moment before I could write this. I was talking to a friend last night and they suggested that I wait. We talked about the fact that it would be better for this piece to come from a place of love and openness, not from an angry, young, Jewish woman. We agreed it would be more beneficial for this to be said from a woman who believes in the equality of humans, no matter their socioeconomic standing, race, gender, religion, or anything else.
While yes, I am angry; I am so, so, so fucking angry… I don't want to put more hate into the world right now. I want to educate - myself and others. I want to learn what we can do to move forward with respect for our fellow humans. Someone shared a quote yesterday that I found really important. To sum it up; privilege allows many people to turn a blind eye to politics. When you say “It’s too sad. I don’t want to talk about it.” or “Can we stop getting political?”, understand that it’s a lot easier for you to say that when you are not personally affected each and every day by the policies put into place, the hate speech being spewed in your face, and the violent actions taking place in towns you once considered your home.
So while I gave myself a night to mentally unwind (in which I actually just had restless sleep due to nightmares), now here I am, as ready as I think I will ever be, to tackle this conversation.
I mentioned wanting to educate myself and others, so I want to use this space to provide a list of resources for readers. Educating ourselves may seem like such a minimal step, but it is a step in the direction of understanding.
My friends at Syndicate Magazine wrote an article on steps you can take in the face of hate, which you can view here.
The American Civil Liberties Union has tabs that will inform you of your rights and also teach you how to defend your rights, which you can access here.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has dedicated its mission to fighting hate and bigotry, and you can learn more here.
So now what? We’ve read these links; we’ve asked ourselves the important questions “Why is this happening?” “Where does this hate come from?” and now we’re left with “What do we do?”.
To start, let us take a moment to honor Heather Heyer. Remember her name and speak of her as the hero she is. Do not let white supremacist, Neo-Nazis reduce her to a “fat, childless slut.” She was never that. She will never be that. We will not let them ruin her name. She stood up in the face of adversity and that terrifies these people. She cared about a cause greater than herself, and that is something they will never understand. Their whole cause is based around not caring about anything that doesn’t “represent” them and she threw the exact opposite in their face. She is our Wonder Woman. A hero with a cause and a hero who will be remembered.
Our next steps should be to denounce hate. If you are reading this piece on La Femme Collective, you have entered a community that is built around love and support. If you do not agree with those beliefs, we’re okay with not having you.
So when someone stands near you and insists on spreading hate, bigotry, and negativity, do what we always encourage our community to do and hold your head higher and stronger. It can be situationally-based. Sometimes you need to speak back and inform them there is no tolerance for that sort of behavior. And sometimes you need to disengage, because the lack of power they have over you will drive them insane. You may need to be the judge of what type of situation you are in, but just know that there are options.
Another thing you can do, if you are in a place of privilege, is acknowledge it. Acknowledge your privilege and use it in a positive way, instead of being offended by the implication that you are “luckier, favored, etc.” Use your voice when others can’t. If you are in a position where you feel safe enough to stand up for those who are having injustice thrusted in their face, stand by them and help protect them. We are stronger in larger numbers; we are stronger together.
Call your representatives. Call your friends - get together and make donations, participate in marches, hold events to create discussion and raise awareness. Do something to engage yourself in the conversations going on around you. And do it with the same passion we encourage you to do everything else in your life.
Because protecting the rights and lives of our fellow humans should be something we strive for every day.
Do not let hate win.