After the disgusting and egregious display of racism, hatred and bigotry in Charlottesville this past week, a large portion of the response was a possibly well-meaning hashtag saying #ThisIsNotUS.
This is not who we are. This is not who the US is. This is simply a blip on the radar.
And, despite the objective falsity of that statement, we have to ask ourselves a question: In the face of such a horrifying demonstration fueled solely by hate, how is our first reaction to attempt to absolve this country of blame? How is our first reaction justification? How is our first reaction not outrage, anger and every other negatively-connotated synonym? How can we see Nazi and Confederate flags waving through the air in the hands of a bunch of white supremacists and not immediately condemn, not immediately voice our anger? Because first and foremost, it doesn't matter if this wasn't us in the past. Now it is.
Here's the thing: This level of hatred may be on a larger and louder scale than others in this nation, so maybe it isn't entirely ignorant to believe that, largely, this isn't us. But the overarching truth is that it absolutely, unquestionably, does not matter. Regardless of if our country, before this week, had been a wholly non-racist, peaceful nation filled with absolutely nothing but kindness, love and equality, once the white supremacists started parading our streets wielding tiki torches and chanting Nazi slogans, we lost all of that.
To say #ThisIsNotUs might be a well-meaning hashtag, but in the end, it is just people trying to
a) absolve the US as a whole of blame
b) convince themselves that this isn't the US now, or both.
Because this IS the United States. It is happening here. It doesn't matter how you contrast America pre-Nazi rally with America post-Nazi rally: This now has to be taken into consideration when defining who America is.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that America was not the aforementioned "wholly non-racist, peaceful nation filled with absolutely nothing but kindness, love and equality" before this happened.
This did not come out of nowhere, though it could seem so.
Regardless, regardless, of Trump's true feelings (although we could take a pretty accurate stab at what those are), his rhetoric throughout the campaign trail and in office have awoken the closeted racists and allowed them to be racist in broad daylight. It turned the anonymous, racist Twitter troll into a swastika-sporting, screaming white supremacist protestor. It turned the person who kept his opinions to himself to a person vocally supporting the rally. Trump's rhetoric has given those who felt their racist, bigoted beliefs were shameful, (or at the very least worth disaffiliating from publicly) a platform to share their views with the support of the most powerful man in the world.
Now, we won't pretend that all of our problems in this country stemmed from electing a racist, misogynist, every-negative-ist-word-you-can-think-of president into office.
The police brutality against unarmed black men and women outdates Trump's inauguration.
The wage gap between men and women, between white women and black women, between men and Hispanic men outdates Trump's inauguration.
Misogyny, racism, etc. weren't born from a Trump presidency: It just gave more merit to those who believed the systems of inequality and oppression should remain in place.
But let's go back even further. Back before what many of us haven't experienced in our lifetimes. Let's go back to slavery. Let's go back to Japanese Internment Camps. Hell, let's go back to the civil rights movement. And largely, these "blips on the radar" are the biggest problem with the widespread use of the hashtag #ThisIsNotUs: Our next generation will be taught that it was not. It will be taught the same way these other subjects were taught:
A weeklong unit on slavery, somehow majority focusing on the kindness of white people in the Underground Railroad and ending with a "things are better now" spiel.
A fleeting class period discussing Japanese Internment camps, somehow absolving the US of all blame.
A movie about Martin Luther King, Jr., focusing on the strides we have now made as a nation against racism and oppression.
All of these are more than blips on the radar. These are sonic booms on the radar. But we are taught to hear, "Ah, slavery happened but it's over now!" and "Yeah, but we all drink out of the same drinking fountain now!" And more than likely, that is what this will be, too. It'll be a 2-page spread in the middle of a history textbook, and the lesson plan will revolve around how this wasn't the United States at this time. We were a nearly entirely peaceful, non-racist nation that focused on equality and kindness, and this came out of nowhere. Never mind the other overt acts of racism happening at the time. Never mind the overtly racist comments coming from the mouth of our president. Never mind, never mind, never mind. Just a blip, right?
Using the hashtag #ThisIsNotUs is dangerous. It is the first step to this being forgotten, for this being seen as just a small piece of history that doesn't define our nation. I'm sorry, but if Nazi demonstrators with tiki torches in the street who murdered somebody... Actually, let me rephrase: If a fatal domestic terror attack (with minimal and forced condemnation from our commander in chief) doesn't define our nation, what will? We can't just ride on the coattails of giving black people and women voting rights and argue that makes us a fair, just and equal society forever. We aren't as far from separate drinking fountains as we were brought up to believe.
Unfortunately, THIS IS US.
This is the United States right now, and convincing yourself otherwise is counterproductive. Until all are willing to admit that this is less of a hashtaggable fluke and more of a demonstration of what our country is turning into, progress will not be made. Writing this off as just one fault in an otherwise perfect nation is at best not beneficial and at worst, incredibly dangerous.
This is America right now. And if you don't like that, instead of pretending that it isn't with #ThisIsNotUS, speak up. Loudly condemn the hatred you see. Admit to yourself that there is a problem, and vocally attempt to do all you can to chip away at fixing it rather than attempting to convince yourself nothing is wrong. If you truly love your country, and if you don't want this to define it, absolving it of any and all blame will do nothing, but speaking up might.