TW: neo-nazi mention, anti-blackness
Last weekend I awoke to the roar of Thunder; like Hephaestus himself cracked opened the sky to rain down in fury. A few hours later I became more aware of what was happening approximately one hour away from me in Charlottesville. A small town known for the University of Virginia, vineyards and more. The night of August 11th, thousands of alt-right gathered on UVA’s campus for #UnitetheRight, a rally of far-right conservatives protesting the nationwide attempt to remove Confederate monuments across the United States. Thousands of white Americans gathered in quaint Charlottesville, the former home of Thomas Jefferson. For those who are unfamiliar with the issue, America at one point was divided into two regions — the Eastern Coast and the Deep South. The two regions had many ideological differences but they mostly fought over economics. An agricultural-based economy that used enslaved Africans was the beginning of modern day capitalism. The Union states were Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, California, Nevada, and Oregon. The Confederacy was the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
The two regions had their separate rights and presidencies and The South acquired wealth through chattel slavery/agriculture-based economy. Without boring you with a history lesson, The Union won and abolished what was known as chattel slavery. The Union expanded westward, granting enslaved Africans “freedom”, although the use of that term is debatable to say the least.
Anyone who has studied American History should know that white supremacy in America is nothing new. Mainstream American media tries to frame White Appalachians and white rural people as textbook “racist”. While a good number of them are racist, “the racist” tropes depicted in the media tend to fall into three categories.
- The unintelligible white person that lives in rural America.
- The white regalia-wearing Klans man, often seen in media art forms that show the Jim Crow Era.
- The white people depicted in movies set in the CIvil Rights era see: Selma, The Help.
Many people have antiquated ideas of what racism looks like and the above listed are the most common depictions of white racists. In the past we saw many anti-black hate crimes come in the form of lynch mobs, water hoses, and legislation that justified it. Because of this People think that the racist figure is no longer present force that resides.
Over the past 2 years, we have seen a gross amount of people align themselves Neo-Nazi or alt-right. This is unsurprising to me because I live in Richmond, Virginia; the former capital of the Confederacy. While I am not proud of that, I do take pride in the fact that many of the people here acknowledge the history and are working to consolidate it by trying to remove many of the monuments that commemorate the Confederacy. So where do I stand? I am a Black American woman. A child of the middle passage; a descendant of slaves. I was once ashamed of my lineage but as I grow older I recognize that the burden is not mine to carry. As a Southern, I am not surprised by what happened in Charlottesville last weekend. I am not surprised by Trump’s presidency. I am not surprised by HBO greenlighting Confederate. My tone may be ambivalent but this is not to say that I’m apathetic. I am enraged but I feel powerless as the world looks on. What occurred in Charlottesville was horrifying but it was just another part of America’s backbone: white male entitlement.
That is not to overlook the fact that white woman were present at Charlottesville the days of August 11th-August 12th. Frankly, as a person of color, I am numb. It seems cyclic and performative. I logged off my social media for self-care. I saw way too many statuses of white liberals exclaiming they were surprised of what occurred. Too many celebrities said that we can conquer hate with love. I understand the sentiments but while your disbelief is overwhelming to you, imagine existing in a body where your humanity is denied repeatedly. Where your heritage is overlooked for some Antebellum wet dream.
Earlier this summer during the week of San Diego Comic Con the show-runners of Games of Throne announce that they had been greenlit for a new series. A series simply called Confederate. A brief synopsis stated that Confederate would be a dystopian series set in The Confederate states where they would have successfully withdrawn from The Union and slavery would still be legal. Since then, there have been hundreds if not thousands of think-pieces, tweets, and petitions to get HBO to cancel the show. The hashtag #NoConfederate is used in the protest where nerds of color unify during each episode of Game of Thrones. Since the hashtag, there have been many discussions of it even in some of our favorite fandoms. Lack of cultural awareness leads to cultural insensitivity. Many nerds of color of varying backgrounds agree that whatever vehicle of speculative fiction they enjoy the majority of the stories center whiteness. There are several causes that attribute to that but we can all collectively agree that we have to support creators of color. By supporting creators of color we do not risk the chance of having media that is tone deaf about issues related to race. White creators monopolize the entertainment industry so when they create content that features characters of color often they resort to tired tropes.
My personal reaction to the Confederate announcement was visceral. I knew from firsthand experience that the notion of the Southern states was romanticized already. Sometimes when I am walking in neighborhoods in Richmond I am met with subtle reminders that I am not welcomed there. Richmond is my home. I pass a Confederate flag almost every day, I know what streets to not cross to come face to face with those monuments. In fact, Richmond has an entire neighborhood that hosts several cultural sites dedicated to the Confederacy. The cultural sites include: churches, monuments, and a Highway. Sometimes when I take walks for leisure, I am hit with the realities that they are still segregated. The nice communities are the white communities. The nice schools are the white schools. This common knowledge is unspoken and is part of a history we refuse to acknowledge. The white Southern with the “heritage not hate”. Is a racist. Do not let their saccharine attitude convince you otherwise. The thing about race is everyone’s (White Americans) acts surprised when racially tensed situations arise. Without sounding antagonistic this is the first of the many events we will witness in Trump’s America. Trump didn’t start white supremacy, rather he emboldened it with his campaign. It’s frightening yet not shocking. In recent years we have seen an increase of media that highlights dystopic state. Dystopia is the genre of literature that imagines society at its very worst and often in the future, as a result of a Government that stopped honoring its people. Sound familiar? We have seen the popularity of the young adult novels Hunger Games and Divergent become franchises worldwide. However the scenes we saw appear on the screen or within the pages of our favorite series centered white people in a reality that many people of color know too well. What’s more frightening is white people’s participation and complacency in the middle of it. When America elected its first African American president many believed that matters of race were a thing of the past. The colorblindness and post-racial lens of the world did not address the tumultuous undertones that were bubbling beneath the surface. White people are getting the dystopia they’ve always wanted; at the expense of people of color’s safety.
Author: Brittney Maddox
Editor: Precious Mayowa Agbabiaka
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.