Do not for even one moment suppose that what happened in Charlottesville last weekend doesn’t affect us in New Jersey. Our so-called blue state actually has the forth largest number of hate groups in the nation. That comes as a real shock to those of us who support progressive politics and we might wonder, “Where are they? Are they hiding down in the Pine Barrens or something?” Well, yes, they are to some extent.
South Jersey is a different world from the suburbs, and there are some seriously reactionary people in the area. However, you would be making a major error if you think the majority in South Jersey is like that, and an even bigger error if you think our home grown haters are merely a handful of raggedy, hill-less hill billys hunting squirrels in the deep woods.
The haters come in all walks of life and live among us everywhere in the state. Some wear overalls, and some wear suits. Some occupy pulpits, and some sit in the pews every Sunday. Some live in trailers or seedy apartments, and some have lovely homes. Regardless of their diversity, they all have one thing in common: facts mean nothing to them when the facts contradict their fixed beliefs.
Serious academic studies have been done on this subject and the results have shown there really are two kinds of people in this world. One type will re-examine established beliefs in the light of new evidence. The second type not only will not re-examine, they will become even more strongly entrenched in the old beliefs, considering themselves to be under attack. The more conclusive the evidence that they are wrong, the more they will denounce that evidence as lies, fake news and conspiracy. Arguing with them becomes an exercise in utter futility. The only thing we can do is to politically isolate them, de-empower them and leave them to the trash heap of history and this we have at present not managed to do.
A notion we need to put firmly aside is that “it can’t happen here,” that racism and fascism can’t get into the drivers seat in this country anymore. Don’t kid yourself. Not only can it, it already has. Why do you think it took the president two whole days to issue a boilerplate denunciation of right wing extremists, calling them by name from the script in front of him? Why do you think notorious white supremacist Steve Bannon still holds a role of influence in the White House?
The coalition of haters who took the streets in Charlottesville merits careful examination. Their leaders have called the weekend a huge success and from their point of view, it was. They garnered the kind of world-wide media attention required to be taken seriously. They showed they could mobilize a very large number of supporters and bring them into direct action. They showed they are well funded, equipped and well armed. Most significant of all, they showed their faces – proudly and blatantly. There were no hoods, no masks, no bandanas tied around faces. They no longer feel they have to hide or remain anonymous, spewing venom in the darkness or hiding behind tags on crazy websites. They are empowered, but so are we!
It is up to us to support the organizations combating this surge of hate. Our own community has organized, and Garden State Equality is staging a number of rallies and marches. They must be actively supported. Further, in our daily lives we must lose no opportunity to confront racism, to tear down notions of white supremacy, and to stand against the kind of brown shirt fascism we saw create havoc in a normally quiet and charming college town on August 12-13.
Do not suppose that because LGBT rights were not the issue this past weekend, that we are not involved. We are very involved. The haters hate us as much or more than the other people they were screaming about. Further, civil rights and equality are for everyone. When they are denied to some, they are denied to all.
When anyone is attacked because of race or gender, religion or sexual orientation, national origin or immigration status, we are all attacked, and we must stand together in response.