By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
I wasn’t surprised when the KKK, white nationalists, and white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, but I was surprised to see Nazi flags flying among their midst. I was shocked that those who flew the Nazi flag were so open about it. The Nazi symbol, the swastika, is such an awful symbol that for someone to actually fly the Nazi flag today was out of the question, or so I thought. It was bad enough seeing the KKK and the white nationalists and supremacists at that protest but to add neo-Nazis to the mix was to add horror to an already deplorable protest.
The neo-Nazis hold the same beliefs as the original Nazis. Their cardinal enemy is the Jewish people, but they also despise non-white, as well as LGBTQ folk. The Neo-Nazis are afraid that they are losing their place in society and the Jewish people, the non-white people, and the LGBTQ people are seen as taking away their rights and knocking them off their place in society. What is going on with these folks? How can they think like this?
One reason that they may think like this is because many of them do not have the ability to think in a way that is nuanced. They can only see things in black and white rather than the more complex gray way. They lack integrative complexity when it comes to thinking. This was a finding from Alejandro Beutel who researches violent extremist ideologies. Beutel is a researcher studying countering violent extremism at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).
Beutel’s findings show that the black and white thinking process can accept simplistic ideas such as the whites make up an Aryan race and that this race should hold privilege in the world. Of course, this is a ridiculous thought but unfortunately some people do buy into this ideology. This thinking places non-white and Jewish folk as enemies to the Neo-Nazis but how do LGBTQ folk fit in? LGBTQ folk are seen as abnormal to the neo-Nazis and that we should all go back into the closet. For instance, I recently saw on the internet, a KKK flyer which supported “bathroom bill” legislation.
So, what can we do to stop this kind of hideous, extremist thinking? Holding counter protests, like Charlottesville did, to bring more awareness to these terrible ideologies and letting everyone know that thy must not be tolerated. Other things you can do are to contact your legislators, let them know your feelings, and ask them what they will do to address these hateful ideas and actions. Keep abreast of any legislative bills coming up at town, state, or national levels and show your support or disapproval by lobbying your legislators. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reports that 100 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced so far in 2017. You can also talk to friends and acquaintances and those folks who use social media, such as Facebook, to discuss their concerns about these ideologies.
The neo-Nazis, KKK, and white supremacists are open and loud. There are also subtle ideologies and, of course, we need to address them too. If you look around you can see racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and transphobia in other facets of society. These also need to be addressed. They may or may not be directly linked with the neo-Nazis, KKK, or white supremacists, but they are there. Some are disguised as social or religious mores. Prejudices can be deeply ingrained in society and may not be noticeable at first glance but they are there. They may be in your clubs that you belong to, in the company you work for, the police department that protects you, and the church where you worship. Unfortunately, no place is immune to them.
So please keep your eye out for these and do not hesitate to bring them up and point them out. The non-white people, the Jewish people, and the LGBTQ folk have suffered too long. It’s time for this to stop.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a trans woman who has 3 grown children and is retired from 3M. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.