If you're like me, you probably grew up knowing about racism and white supremacy, and knowing they are deplorable. You were probably taught to be respectful of everyone and had a vague idea that "Back in the old days, we were all racist, but we're not anymore."
If you were like me, you probably knew racism existed among old relatives and the most ignorant hillbillies at school, but made a number of insensitive remarks you genuinely believed were benign, because they were tame compared to your idea of extreme racism. But you also probably never imagined you would witness a large group of white supremacists leading a rally. You probably never expected to witness the election of a president endorsed by neo-Nazis. You probably never expected cops to murder legal gun owners because of racism or to hear any educated person under the age of 127 defend these cops. If you grew up like me, you thought racism was deplorable, but never considered it a widespread social problem among a majority of mainstream adults.
The events of the past few years have surely shattered these delusions. It started with police killings and the rise of #BlackLivesMatter. Suddenly it was all over the news. And then it happened again and again and again. The NRA didn't speak up for Philando Castile when he was shot for carrying legally; and Americans will continue to defend bigoted cops just because they're cops. And eventually, I could not pretend that bad cops were the exception and the system wasn't rigged.
Then, a boy shot group of black people at a Bible study because of white supremacy. He posed with a Confederate flag and declared that he was doing the right thing for society. And suddenly, describing Confederate flags as "tacky, ignorant, wrong, something I would never in my life own, but generally harmless" is a paltry understatement.
In 2015, Donald Trump infamously kicked off his campaign by promising to build a wall to keep out rapist Mexicans. And he was so ludicrous, I was sure the campaign would fizzle out soon. But, well, despite an endorsement from the KKK, the rise of the alt-right, and comments ranging from tasteless to straight up evil, President Trump is sitting in the Oval Office right now. And a white supremacist rally in his name is happening this weekend. Many people who voted for Trump are not white supremacists, but every white supremacist did vote for Trump. And I can no longer cling to the notion that white supremacy isn't an issue anymore.
The alt-right has a voice. They aren't hiding out in basements and gas station parking lots anymore. The media sheds light on them. The President cozies up to them. Social media gives them a voice and a sense of relevance. We no longer have an excuse not to talk about this issue.
And, mainstream white conservatives, we must no longer be tentative in condemning them. I know you, the Trump supporter who just wanted to stop Clinton, are not a white nationalist. Although I did not vote for him, I can make that distinction (unlike an *actual* leftist). But, you have to stop pretending white nationalists don't exist. You have to vehemently condemn them.
Maybe, you also grew up with the idea that we "just shouldn't mention race, then racism will go away." And people are correct in saying race shouldn't be a divisive factor. But we cannot use that line to avoid discussing relevant social issues. Several decades of "not seeing color" didn't save Alton Sterling or Philando Castile's life. "Just not mentioning race" hasn't reduced minority over-representation in the justice system. Let's ruin Christmas parties by chatting about offensive topics, and let's vote to reform our justice system. You have to be active.
You have to stop teaching kids "Back in the old days, we were all racist, but then the 1960's happened, so it mostly went away.'' You have to condemn racists who wear badges and racists who wear suits and have degrees. You know they exist. You cannot plead ignorance in the social media age, and you cannot plead innocent if you don't speak up.