Last weekend, the city of Charlottesville in the U.S. saw an eruption of violence, led by hate, bigotry, and white supremacists.
It led to the murder of a 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer, and dozens more injured, when a speeding car was deliberately driven into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters.
Two state troopers also died, when the helicopter they were monitoring the situation in crashed and burst into flames.
Demonstrators on both sides were injured as fights broke out, and pepper spray and weapons replaced speech and taunts.
Meanwhile, the so-called Commander-in-Chief, “President” Trump, remained silent until his hand was forced by the backlash against the White House’s silence on the violence.
Given Trump’s penchant for denouncing retailers that don’t stock his daughter’s products, to his tirades against “radical terrorism”, his silence on the white domestic terrorists was deafening, even though the hate could be heard so clearly.
However, as the world looked on in horror at what was unfolding on American soil, we have to remain cognizant that it’s not something that “could never happen here”.
Hate is Everywhere
Here in Canada, there’s a growing fear that the hateful rhetoric we saw at the weekend could raise its head here.
While my adopted country is often heralded as one of the most welcoming and friendliest countries in the world, we have our own sordid history and characters.
In the northern city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, racism against indigenous people (the original Canadian citizens) was brought into sharp focus with the deaths of seven First Nations students.
Their deaths highlighted not only racism in the city, but how their deaths were treated by the authorities, and led to almost 150 recommendations on combatting the issue.
In British Columbia, the racism against Canadian aboriginals is so inherent that it’s almost become invisible to the local eye, and is ingrained into many of the non-native society.
Elsewhere, there’a a media site called Rebel Media that has seen its co-founder leave due to its views on immigration and Islam.
Add “everyday Canadians” asking for a white doctor, and the ease in which we can feel smug that we’re a multi-cultural and welcoming destination, and it’s clear to see that America’s northern neighbours have our own issues.
Over in the UK, hate-filled rhetoric and ignorance was used to engineer the Brexit vote, and the departure of the UK from the European Union.
While there were some valid beliefs in Leave voters that leaving the EU made economical sense, in truth much of the arguments came from the belief that Britain had to take back its money and jobs from “Johnny Foreigner”.
You only have to look at the aftermath of the Leave vote to see how this argument emboldened the festering racism that had been on the rise in the UK.
- Over a third of ethnic and minority groups in the UK suffered from racial abuse following the vote
- 20% were assaulted because of race
- 41% witnessed or heard racial abuse
Neighbours and communities turned on each other, and small-minded bigots unleashed their pent-up hate.
In Europe, there’s been a rise in the far right and their opposition to the immigration policies of these countries.
As cities like Brussels and Paris become victim to terrorist attacks, racists use these as proof that Muslims need to be banned from entering the country, regardless if certain death waits on them at home.
Refugee camps are attacked, violence simmers underneath, and the uneasy peace threatens to be ripped apart at any minute.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I’m not a politics major, or a societal expert. That’s why we have smart people in power looking for answers, looking for ways to ensure the targeted are protected while the ignorant are – hopefully – educated.
And, thankfully, political results would suggest more people are ready to push back on hate than embrace it.
In France, the far-right party suffered a devastating loss in the recent election, as newcomer Emanuel Macron became French President.
In Canada in 2015, the incumbent Conservative Party’s campaign of trying to divide Canadians through cultural difference backfired spectacularly. Their party was wiped out in the elections and Justin Trudeau took office.
In Germany, Angela Merkel has seen off far-right parties through her stance of a united and prosperous country, and a defence of her country being a safe haven for refugees.
These are just three examples, three leaders, three countries.
As mentioned earlier, are these countries perfect? No – far from it. But they offer hope that hate and violence can be countered with acceptance and sensibility.
[clickToTweet tweet=”We can’t stay silent in the belief someone else will speak up – we are that someone else.” quote=”We can’t stay silent in the belief someone else will speak up – we are that someone else.”]
However, these are just starting points. We need to be more vocal, more protective, more active when it comes to denouncing hate and protecting others.
- We can’t live with the mindset “never here” – history tells us otherwise
- We can’t stay silent in the belief someone else will speak up – we are that someone else
- We can’t allow ignorance and lies to go unchallenged – that’s the real fake news and it has to be pushed back on
- We can’t allow our kids to be educated by unchecked media – we need to instil love, truth, acceptance
- We can’t hide behind the term “not all white people” or similar – that simply negates the issue
There are many people who say Charlottesville was a turning point. A recognition of the issue in the U.S., and what’s needed to correct it (getting the white supremacists out of the White House would be a start).
But if it is recognition of any kind, then it’s only realizing that this is the face of hate that all too many people deal with every day. The only difference is we saw it on TV and social media.
Understand that, and understand that it could happen “here”, and probably will unless we do something, and we may just have a chance at fighting this problem effectively.
Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before Charlottesville becomes your town or city. And by then it’ll be too late.