Yesterday, on a street corner on a rural edge of my county, there was a Nazi demonstration. Yes, an actual Nazi demonstration. (I heard about it via a post by a fellow admin of one of the groups I co-admin; she in turn heard about it from a friend who took the pictures.)
After sitting with this for awhile, wondering what to do, I wrote an email to our county Sheriff, and CCed several local leaders and media organizations. The letter:
Subject: Nazi demonstration in Deland
Dear Sheriff Chitwood:
Thank you always for your dedication to rooting out evil in the world. You may already be aware of this Nazi white supremacist demonstration that happened yesterday in north Deland (corner of 17 and 15), but I’m alerting you just in case.
As you can see, along with the swastika, there are messages promoting white supremacy. Particularly disturbing is the one saying that “the only real Americans are white”!
I consider this an attack on our citizenry, including our own police force and city/county leaders. Historically, this kind of speech has been considered a gray area, with some court cases ruling that it is covered by the First Amendment, but others such as the landmark Skokie case of 1977 have ruled it “fighting words” and therefore not protected speech.
But even if it is legally allowed, is this who we are? Perhaps our various divisions of law enforcement and government would want to issue public statements deploring this kind of demonstration.
To me, this demonstration is an incitement. It creates an unsafe and putrid climate in our multi-racial, multi-cultural county and all the cities within it.
There may be nothing law enforcement can do to stop this kind of thing, but I wanted you all to have it on your radar. It is deeply disturbing to see on our very own streets this visual evidence of the same moral ill that our country fought against in World War II. It is even, dare I say, an insult to World War II veterans.
Thank you, and peaceful Happy Holidays to you and your department.
Daytona Beach, Volusia County
(A city and county filled with, and proudly led by, many outstanding Black citizens and people of numerous other non-“white” categories of ancestry as well!)
The Sheriff responded:
We were well aware of this and had plenty of resources out there. While this is despicable and not who we are it is protected speech under the 1st Amend. It should be noted that with the exception of one person all participants were not from this County.
Hope this helps,
And I replied:
Thank you Sheriff Chitwood; I am glad to hear you were aware and had resources deployed out there. Regardless of which county the participants were from, this happened on our soil, and we must stay vigilant.
And he replied to that:
WITHOUT A DOUBT.
When something like this happens, one naturally feels at a loss for what to do about it; how to respond. It’s tempting to leave it for “someone else” to take care of; assume that “someone else” is already on it. But, if my fellow admin’s friend had not sent her the text and pictures, and if my fellow admin had not then posted them in our group, I might never have found out about this. So I realized that my letter was part of the “what to do about it and how to respond.”
My ancestry is whitey McWhiteface with an extra double supersized order of whiteness (I checked, and turned out to be even more “white” than I had thought.) If someone like me doesn’t speak up, I am allowing our public spaces to become more dangerous for all.
And finally, a note about “whiteness”:
A little while back, after the Black Lives Matter protests, I took some anti-racism trainings and did some readings. I read in “People’s History of the United States,” a bestselling and highly regarded book by Howard Zinn, that “white” is not actually a real race!
It was a construct created by wealthy land-owners in order to bust up the natural affinity that formed between the plantation workers (Anglo-European immigrant indentured servants, and the African people that the land-owning classes had kidnapped and enslaved).
Basically, as I understand it, the overlords fostered a “white” identity among the Scotch-Irish, English, and other indentured servants of Anglo-European ancestry, and gave them just enough petty little privileges to make them feel like a “superior” class to the enslaved Africans they had previously formed close associations with.
When I read that about the deliberate plot by the plantation owners to create division among the two groups of working people they ruled over, it really made a lot of sense and explained a lot! And resonated with my own observations and some other things I’d read.