Editor’s note: Faithfully Magazine reported recently on the Unite the Right gathering of extremists said to be protesting the removal of a Confederate-era statue involving alt-right groups, neo-Confederates, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Naziis. The Southern Poverty Law Center described the Unite the Right rally, which descended into violence Saturday, as the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.”
I woke up Saturday morning to all the videos and images of the torch-light white supremacy protest held Friday night at the University of Virginia (UVA). I watched as a multitude of white supremacists marched with torches and chanted statements of white supremacy. I couldn’t help but to reflect on the past two years and all the pleas and warnings made by Christians of color to alert their White brethren about Trump and what he was emboldening.
“You’re overreacting,” many said.
“Stop being divisive!” many said.
“You’re an agitator and liberal!!” many claimed.
And many more simply said nothing. They continued talking about abortion (which is indeed evil), the economy and Hillary Clinton’s emails. They talked about how “all lives matter” and spilt plenty of ink defending statistics to justify insensitivity toward the deaths of unarmed Black men. With all that, many even continued talking about the gospel, all the while not realizing how their silence and indifference in the face of racism made their gospel witness hypocritical. Well, we are now possibly looking at the birth pains of WWIII and, thanks to our president’s rhetoric, a revitalized movement of white supremacy.
I understand, for many, these are simply pictures documenting an exercise of free speech. For me, and other people of color, given the history of our country, this is an act of terrorism.
Notice the age of these white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia. They are my age. They sit in college classes, you see them in grocery stores, you sit next to them at movie theaters, they may go to your church and even sit in your seminary lectures.
If you listen to the protests, notice how these people posture themselves as victims. White supremacy ALWAYS seeks to justify itself by claiming the victors are victimized and the real victims are the victimizers. White supremacy always seeks to make minorities feel like they are the problem and those who are White are the solution. This re-enforces their power and authority and minimizes the voice of minorities. Also, white supremacy WILL embrace minorities if they can receive some who will help re-enforce that narrative to their fellow minority peoples.
Again, white supremacy ALWAYS seeks to justify itself by claiming the victors are victimized and the real victims are the victimizers. White supremacy always seeks to make minorities feel like they are the problem and those who are White are the solution. This re-enforces their power and authority and minimizes the voice of minorities. It also fuels White racial rage and provides a form of perverted logic that conveys a satanic morality.
These images are surreal. As I look at them, it is as if I am looking through the eyes of my Black ancestors. I am the descendant of slaves. I am the descendant of Civil Rights activists. From slavery to Reconstruction, from the Klu Klux Klan to the Whites who defended Jim Crow—now, behold modern day America
Imprinted on the mind of every generation of Black people is the image of angry White men with torches bellowing out words of white supremacy. The image of White rage is well known by people of color in America, especially African Americans.
Often, Black people are encouraged to consider what this image of White rage represents to be nothing more than a delusion. Last year, many of us were patted on our backs as these same people voted a white supremacist into office, a man who emboldened other white supremacists to come out of the darkness and into the public light.
Personally, I feel like I have walked through a “Rite of Passage.” I too, now, have an image that encapsulates white supremacy imprinted on my mind. Well, I have hundreds. But in this one, I feel like I have inherited the eyes of my ancestors. The only question left for me is to ask is: At what age will my son and daughters walk through this “Rite of Passage?” What age will my children be when they inherit the eyes of their father, their father’s father, and so on?
If you are not Black, I encourage you to look at these images closely. Look and look and look. After you have looked long and hard and have had these images imprinted onto your mind, close your eyes. Try hard to Imagine the images. If your imagination is vivid enough, for a moment, you may enter into the privilege of looking at America through the eyes of Black history.
Editor’s note: A version of this essay was first published at kylejhoward.com.
Kyle J. Howard currently serves the church as a biblical counselor. He is a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he received his associate degree in biblical/theological studies and a bachelor’s degree in biblical counseling. He is finishing a graduate degree in Historical Theology and is preparing to plant and pastor a transcultural church.