Throughout most of my life, racism has been a squirrely, slippery concept for white people like me. When the hate isn’t being thrown your way, it can be tricky trying to discern what’s racism, what’s rudeness, and what’s paranoia.
Growing up in a town that had one — maybe two — black kids in the same school, I only ever heard nasty racial epithets in social studies class. In the suburban Northeast years after the Civil Rights Act was passed, I mostly met kids of other races at summer camps and swim lessons, and never personally thought they were any different than I was. Lacking lynchings and police-involved shootings in the news, I never saw the kind of racism that I could easily recognize.
Thanks to the new leaders of the AFA, finally I can see that kind of hate is alive and well. I knew it was intellectually, but it’s been like a blind person trusting that there’s such a thing as color. I can lie to a blind person, and they will either trust me or try to figure out if something is a given color, or not. Racism in recent decades has mostly been like this: it can be explained away because it’s subtle. Observers are forced to conjecture about motivations, which means that unless you are the target of the racist behavior, which give you a sense of the intent, it’s not any different than ascertaining thoughtcrime. (I imagine that someone who has been abused raw by racist behavior might be quick to assume it when they see similar behavior, but again, I have not lived this experience.)
But this racism? It’s easy to spot. It’s like giving red a C sharp, allowing the blind person to identify it with ease. This is the kind of racism we can do something about.
What to do, though? In theory, these are just masculine men and feminine women who just want to care for their beautiful white children. Is it okay to let them build little white enclaves, or will they be stockpiling guns behind the walls to “solve” the problem they see in the world? There exists in humans a desire to associate with those who are familiar, and some humans identify that familiarity in very shallow ways, features that can be seen quickly like skin color and “traditional” gender. Is it okay to let our simpler fellows enjoy the quiet enjoyment of their little white paradise, or are they also prone to violence?
I don’t have the answers to these bigger questions. All I know is that thanks to this statement from the AFA leaders, it’s a lot simpler to figure out who I don’t wish to have in my life.