Ohio, Post-Charlottesville: Confronting White Supremacy in Our Backyard

Ohio, we need to talk about the hate festering in our backyard.

On August 12, a throng of racist, hateful protesters descended upon the University of Virginia, intending to stir tension and elicit intimidation with the largest gathering of white nationalists the United States has seen in decades.

Their virulent rage exhibited Friday would only be eclipsed by the tragic violence of Saturday afternoon.

Around 1:14 PM, a 20-year-old white supremacist—a Nazi sympathizer—deliberately rammed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring 19 people. He struck and killed 32-year old Heather Heyer.

“They killed my child to shut her up. But they just magnified her,” said Heyer’s mother at a memorial service later in the week.

“I’d rather have my child, but if I’ve gotta give her up, we’re gonna make it count.”

By Saturday evening, we learned the young man who murdered Heather Heyer was from Ohio. He lived in Maumee.

 

Many people would agree that Charlottesville was not a redeeming moment for Ohio.

 

Ohio’s ties to the racist violence incited that weekend were on full display.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map circulated widely on social media after Charlottesville indicated that a nationwide total of 917 hate groups currently operate in the United States. Ohio is home to 35, which is higher-than-average.

You’ve heard of the Daily Stormer, run by anti-Semite and Worthington-native Andrew Anglin, yes? Anglin gleaned coverage from local papers earlier this year when outlets learned the Daily Stormer’s mail was delivered to a P.O. Box in Worthington.

Ohio again received coverage after Charlottesville amid Anglin’s release of inflammatory and downright vile blog posts celebrating Heather Heyer’s death, which prompted GoDaddy to give the neo-Nazi publication 24-hours notice to find another host. Google also pulled the site down soon after. Good riddance.

Others reports of hate in Ohio, post-Charlottesville also began to circulate on social media…

“Where is America going? Where is Ohio going?” State Rep. Stephanie Howse wonders, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “We really have to have a conversation about home-grown terrorism, just as we do about terrorism from afar.”

Rep. Howse makes an excellent point about Ohio’s need for self-reflection after Charlottesville.

Here are some ways folks can dismantle white supremacy and uplift the cause for racial justice in Ohio:

Everyone should take our role(s) in fighting white supremacy seriously. But especially those of us who benefit from white privilege. The onus is on my fellow white people, so I’m primarily speaking to you.

Educate yourself.
Examine your own biases: Harvard can help with that. Listen to people directly impacted by white supremacy and validate their perspectives. Unpack the history of systemic, racial injustice in America. Do not expect people of color to do that work for you. Here are some helpful resources to get you started.  Also, resources for talking to your kids. Your students. Your family. And your friends.

SPEAK UP. Disavow hate. Talk openly about the realities of racism and hold others accountable.
Make your position clear. Online, in-person, etc. Acknowledge to yourself and others that holding each other accountable can be uncomfortable, but this emotional and intellectual labor is necessary to spur a meaningful culture shift among people who are not directly affected by (or perhaps even perpetuate) systemic racism. Speak up when others can’t or won’t.

Constructive disruption is key. Weaponize white privilege to dismantle white supremacy.


Remember: Your objective is not to change someone’s worldview through a single conversation. That’s a tall order and this issue is not that simple. Instead, your goal is to impose a social standard in your circles where racial slurs, microaggressions or other forms of bigotry are widely understood to not be tolerated and are instead met with resistance. You can start by responding to racist comments with questions like: “What do you mean by that?” or “Why do you feel that way?” Southern Poverty Law Center can offer some guidance for responding to bigotry, as well.

Be LOUDER than hate. Don’t listen to Tina Fey this time around. Apathy is what brought us here.
Instead, show up to counter-protest if white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the KKK, or other hate groups plan an event in your city. You may not have the power to shut them down, but you can drown them out.

Adapt this mindset wherever you encounter hate.

Columbus showed up after Charlottesville:

Other simple but meaningful ways you can support racial justice (not a comprehensive list):

Do you have questions, would you like to add resources to this list, or do you care to bring something else to my attention? Please contact me at colleen@democraticvoices.com