Charlottesville: Call it by its name – racism

I have seen some weak denouncing of what happened in Charlottesville. The best way to avoid a conversation about racism is to not call it racism. In the last three days, I’ve seen white people say, “Hate is not tolerated here” or “Hate is hate,” etc. Uh. Duh. You’re right. I’ve been teaching my five-year-old stepkid you don’t say hate. Not tolerating hate doesn’t require much effort. Like I said, the five-year-old is picking up on it pretty quickly.

But we aren’t five and this wasn’t *just* hate. This was a clear and obvious display of racism. Members of the KKK showed up at the riot. Remember, the white people who kill and assault people of color? Here is a tip for you: When the KKK shows up, it’s racism. So, why are we saying, “Hate will not be tolerated”? Why not “Racism will not be tolerated”?

Hate will not be tolerated is much more appealing to a wide audience. Right? Who can’t get behind that? No hate here! Plus, a large number of white people truly believe racism is no longer a problem in our country. Using the word hate allows us to sound outraged but also to ignore the bigger, bloody wound of racism.

By not calling racism by its name, we erase it from our conversations. The way we’ve erased black people in public spaces. We marginalize what happened in Charlottesville. The way we have marginalized black people. We make Charlottesville the work of extremist when the reality is our nation was built on racism. We erase the history of these types of violent encounters.

I’ve noticed posts about Charlottesville that include the LGBTQ community. While I appreciate the thought, by including LGBTQ people you’re blanketing the problem again. You are making this about hate. Again, hate sucks. While we LGBTQ people have a whole slew of discrimination and equality issues to tackle, this isn’t about us white LGBTQ people. You can call homophobic, transphobic people out when the time comes and, trust me, it comes often. See: President Trump’s trans military ban. But this is about racism.

You need to do the work and focus on that issue. The blanket statements about not tolerating hate against any people including people of color, LGBTQ people, etc, are not requiring you to work. It doesn’t require you to examine the nuances of discrimination. These statements don’t consider intersectionality of identity. They don’t consider the historical context of racism, homophobia, and transphobia. You just lump us all nice togetherly and say, “I love these people. Don’t be mean to them.” That is not helpful.

You have to take the time to understand why this is happening and listen to people of color. You need to realize that racism isn’t ‘getting worse again.’ You’re just noticing it now. Racism is alive and well and it remains so if we keep ignoring it. If we call it hate. If we say it’s not the whole nation.

White people get uncomfortable with the word racism. Either afraid it’ll be pinned to them. “Well, I’m not a racist.” Or afraid of what it means for their lives if the country stops upholding institutions filled racism. “I deserve the job because I’m most qualified.” We have to stop being afraid to admit, we are racist. If we really want change, we have to talk about it. We have to acknowledge it – in ourselves and in each other. We most certainly have to call it out during national events.

Let’s stop our chanting and writing about hate. Sure, this was a completely hateful event but it’s much more dangerous and complex than hate. It’s much more historic than hate. This is racism. Racism is systemic. Racism is everywhere.

Charlottesville was an act of racist terrorism.


  1. Thoughtful and well explained.

Leave a comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that. Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked