Before we go into the reasons why we should all be talking about the atrocities that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, here's a rundown of what happened for those who don't know:
(Please note that we are not by any means a news organisation and therefore this is a very basic map of what has happened in the past 48 hours.)
Yesterday, Saturday 12 August, an organised rally for white nationalists and other far-right figures called Unite The Right took place. Initially, the rally was organised to protest the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee, which many saw as a part of heritage and a (positive) Confederate symbol, celebrating white power. The statue's removal for many (i.e. non-racists) was something to celebrate, but the far-right were left unimpressed.
White supremacists, neo-Nazis and other members of far-right bodies such as the KKK travelled from all over the USA to Charlottesville, and on Friday night, a hoard of them marched on University of Virginia (UVA)'s campus. They marched holding tiki torches whilst chanting 'White lives matter', and popular Nazi slogan, 'Blood and soil!'. The demonstration was met with protesters and it fights erupted, but nothing in comparison to what was to come the next day.
Many attending the rally on Saturday came carrying shields, weapons, plus Nazi and Confederate battle flags, with unidentified militia groups arriving in their dozens. Brawls broke out between the demonstrators and anti-racism activists, which left three dead and 35 injured.
A 32 year-old woman was killed in a hit and run incident, where a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of anti-racism activists; he was arrested and charged with second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit and run with injury. Two police troopers were also killed after their helicopter, which was monitoring the chaos from above, crashed.
The rally - which was the largest of its kind in over a decade - was shut down after the escalation of the violence led to a state of emergency in Virginia.
POTUS (Prat Of The United States) Donald Trump spoke out about the violence in a (very poor, and very unpresidential) speech and blamed it 'on many sides'. I'm sorry but, many sides?! There is only one side.He also avoided directly criticising or calling out white supremacists, who have continuously embraced and supported him since the presidential race.
We NEED to talk about this. This is not just news that should be forgotten tomorrow.
Some of you who read this may think, hang on, I thought this was a site about body positivity? It was - and still is - but sometimes we need to use our platforms to open up conversations about things that need to be talked about. Also it's important to recognise that the body positive movement tackles oppression beyond fatphobia; race, ability, sexuality, gender and more forms of discrimination have to be addressed in order to challenge the stigma surrounding women's bodies and the way that society looks at them.
Let's put this situation into perspective:
This was a demonstration where racist and anti-semitic vulgarities were put out into the universe by people who marched through streets chanting 'white lives matter.' The authorities were placed on duty to protect them, and it wasn't until fights broke out with protestors against the rally that police had to step in and (try to) take hold of the situation. Had this been a situation where hoards of black demonstrators were walking the streets holding signs (i.e. not weapons or Nazi/Confederate flags) chanting 'black lives matter', police would be ready for action, poised with batons, guns, tasers and tear gas. Why should one crowd be protected by the very people who attack the other? If this stark comparison isn't a prime example of white privilege and how it exists in our society, then I don't know what is.
Also, White Lives Matter is not a thing. White people already hold privilege and respect in society, and being offended by the idea of marginalised entities having equality just goes to show that level of privilege (and bigotry). This is not about rights. White people have rights already. Those who preach All Lives Matter don't get it either. Yes, all lives do matter, congratulations, you sound so egalitarian (*eye roll*). However, in order for that to be the case, police brutality and other systemically oppressive and racist acts towards black people, people of colour and other marginalised people needs to be addressed, challenged and stamped out. Thus, we need to put those people first. So if you're offended by Black Lives Matter, pipe down and crawl back into your hole.
Had this been an attack on white people by an extremist group such as ISIS, the press would be on this for days, weeks, months, talking about terrorism and what it does to societies. This too is terrorism. This is white terrorism, which many refuse to accept is real. It is real, and it is happening, and is responsible for more acts of terror than any other form of terrorism. Sheltering the people who support these acts and avoiding calling them terrorists does nothing but enable them further. Giving them pet names won't make them any less dangerous. These are hate crimes, and, if they were committed by people of a different skin colour, more people would see it as such. This is a problem that will not go away, and will only worsen if we don't work harder to make change.
I could continue with more points and thoughts on this for ages, and from several different angles, but that would make for one very long, potentially never-ending-therefore-never-posted post. When I first heard about what happened in Charlottesville late last night I knew that I would have something to say and if I didn't use my platform in order to do so, what kind of ally am I? What I want anybody reading this post to take away from it is that we must never stop talking about this. Keep open dialogues that confront racism, discrimination or bigotry - and the systems that support them - head on.
There are some fantastic posts and threads across social media, especially on Twitter and Instagram (click to view hashtags), which I actively encourage you to read, engage, and share. We as a society must create the change, we must support all minorities and fight for a world where they are safe from terrorists who hide behind a quiet family life, picket fences and a set of white robes.
In short, don't let the bastards win.
Founder and Editor of The Unedit