Want to visit a Confederate War Memorial?

Dear Joel,

This past May, the Journal of Hate Studies released a special issue, Heritage and Hate. I was the editor on the issue, which included articles on the Confederate flag, remembering slavery in museums in the American South, and what to do with memorials that honor white supremacists (in Zimbabwe, not the US). The authors were incredibly patient as we put together this issue and got it in the hands of readers. (Most readers will have to be a little more patient. The issue is in the hands of subscribers and libraries, but the digital copy isn’t online yet. When it is, though, you can read it for free. In the meantime, if anyone wants a copy of any of the articles (Here’s the Table of Contents.), just let me know and I’ll happily send you a PDF.)

So, this issue of how we navigate Confederate memorials–I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now.

There is no defense of such monuments. We know that most of them were put up not to honor Civil War veterans but to reinforce white supremacy during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Era. Some have been put even more recently. Claims that “this is history” were naive last week; this week, they are offensive. If only it were history! But it’s not–the statues are about maintaining the right of whites to terrorize blacks, through slavery and the violence of Reconstruction, through legalized segregation,  through imprisonment, through marches of white men carrying torches.

None of those honored are heroes. All of them led a revolt against the United States, one not rooted in freedom but in defense of white supremacy, of the right of white people to own blacks, and of an economic system that relied on the oppression of human beings. This is the “Southern heritage” that those men fought to defend, and it is shameful.

Monuments are not about history. They are about stories. These monuments are about the story of the Lost Cause and about the goodness of men who were evil. They don’t deserve to stand.

Citizens should not have to take these matters into their own hands. They should not have to look at their tax money being used to honor men who were willing to kill for white supremacy.  We don’t need a public dialogue to discuss whether these men should be honored. Honoring them dishonors us. Honoring them is an act of violence to real people, right now, today.

Can we look to our elected leaders to remove them? In some places, yes, thank God.

What should those leaders do with the monuments? Dump them into the sea, where they cannot be reclaimed or turned into profit for white supremacists. We have a precedent for doing this with the bodies of those who commit mass violence and genocide.

But what about–

No, I do not care about them. Not when we have never paid the descendants of slaves for what they lost: lives, opportunities, justice. We don’t spend taxpayer money honoring men who took us into war while we say that we just can’t figure out how to to do right by  the people they enslaved.

Let those who want Confederate soldiers honored do it on their own dime, on their own land. Private citizens are free to erect monuments to white supremacists on their own. If “heritage not hate” folks want to see them, I can direct them to white supremacists training grounds.

And if “heritage not hate” tourists find the idea of hanging out with folks who are training for a racial war, planning attacks on the US government, and laughing at racial terrorism a little bit distasteful… Well, I’m not sure what to tell you. Today’s white supremacist militias are just doing what your heroes did.

A group of men walking in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017 (Photo provided by the Office of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe)

Above, white supremacists aren’t all polo shirt wearing college students upset about Fisher v. University of Texas. They’re also heavily armed racists itching for a racial war that will end with a white ethno state. Their major criticism of slavery is that it brought Africans to this continent. Basically, Confederate war heroes. 




Misogyny as a Precursor to Mass Violence… Again

Hi Joel,


I must sound like a broken record, but have pity on me–if you are tired of hearing it, imagine how tired women are of saying it.

Men who commit mass violence–and being a young man is characteristic that most mass violence actors have in common–are almost always domestic abusers first. Hate crimes begin at home, and the crime of wife beating is a misogynistic crime. It is rooted in the same toxic masculinity as other kinds of violence, fed by entitlement., grudge holding, and a wounded sense of honor.

James Alex Fields, Jr. is why we need a national domestic violence registry.

Image result for james alex fields car

Above, the murder weapon–a car–that Fields used. 

Prior to his murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer and his terrorist attack that harmed 19 others, Fields’ violence toward his mother prompted her to call 911 repeatedly to seek police intervention to protect her from him.

Most domestic abusers do not go on to mow strangers down with their cars. And most people who are planning acts of mass violence aren’t dissuaded from doing so because their names appear in a registry.

But a registry would allow us to keep better track of convicted offenders (who, obviously, do not represent all or perhaps even most of those who commit such acts) and allow us to move more quickly to intervene, including through gun restraining orders.  


Support your Local Nazi Hunter

Dear Joel,

Can’t bring yourself to slug a Nazi?

If you want to get out of the tension between worrying about antifa’s tactics, do your part to support the fight against fascism. You already know what it is.

Work on justice, and antics will recede–at least until we drift near fascism again.



antif flag burning

Above, an antifascist activist burns a “Thin Blue Line” flag. If this upsets you, think about what it means that some officers and their Blue Lives Matter supporters have their own flag, which desecrates the US flag according to the US flag code. Oh, and that thin blue line in the image–it represents the police officers who stand between us and anarchy. Feeling a little worried yet about police authoritarianism? 

“Daughters for Life” to meet in DC

I encourage our readers in the Washington, DC area to attend an upcoming event that supports peacemaking co-sponsered by Daughters for Life and Eastern Mennonite University’s  Center for Justice and Peacebuilding

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Daughters for Life was founded by Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, whose daughters, Bessan, 21, Mayar, 15, and Aya, 13, were killed when Israeli tanks shelled his family’s home in Gaza in 2009.  In 2011, an interview with Dr. Abuelaish appeared in the Journal for Hate Studies. In his interview (which you can find here: 157-483-1-PB), Dr. Abuelaish speaks about how we have hope in the face of tragedy and how we inculcate children against hate.

Image resultAbove, the cover of I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity shows daughters Bessan, Mayar, and Aya tracing their names in the sand on a beach. 

The organization that he founded after this violence focuses on empowering girls and young women from Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria by awarding them scholarships to study in Canada, the UK, and the US.

On September 16th, Daughters for Life and EMU are hosting a dinner honoring women working in peace building: Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, Peabody Award-winning social entrepreneur and media producer Ronit Avni, and the executive director of Just Vision, Suhad Babaa. Tickets are available to support this work and celebrate these women.


Why do Christians think they need to oppress gay people?

Dear Joel,

Susan Trollinger and William Trollinger, in the English and history department of the University of Dayton, blog at Righting America, which is associated with their book Righting America at the Creation Museum (Johns Hopkins 2016), an examination of how the Creation Museum serves the interest of religious conservatives.

For our Mennonite readers, Sue and Bill might be familiar names. They were faculty at Bluffton College, and Susan is associated with the Young Center at Elizabethtown College. She is the author of Selling the Amish: The Tourism of Nostalgia (Johns Hopkins 2012) and other scholarship on Anabaptists.

Sue and Bill invited me to share some thoughts at their blog recently on the question of why conservative Christians are so invested in the battle against gay rights.  You can read my response here. 

Above, Gustav Klimt’s 1917 Adam and Eve. What kind of blasphemy is it to insist that Christianity can’t work unless its founded on heterosexuality?



Countering Hate: Make It about You

Dear Joel,

Some of our readers might know that I occasionally work with communities facing hate protest, mostly but not exclusively in response to anti-gay groups. This emerged out of my research on hate protest and counterprotest. I’ve been fortunate to get to work with people who really care about meeting hate head-on in their communities, and I’ve learned from that work.

Right now, though, I want to answer a specific question I get asked frequently: If we ignored this, would it go away? If we signaled through our actions that the behavior of Republican white supremacist rioters was silly, foolish, and unimportant, would we make it so?

No, I don’t think so. Here’s why: The audiences being targeted–nonwhites that protesters aim to terrify, whites they hope to recruit–ARE paying attention. The first set of people would be foolish not to; their survival depends upon paying attention to haters. For the second set, our messages need to overwhelm the messages of hate–both by showing that those who choose hate will face severe social penalties and by showing where the “off ramps” from hate are.

For haters, these are the goals: to intimidate, recruit, and solidify the group. Upsetting the rest of us is a bonus, one that absolutely feeds into the sense of persecution and provides a decent thrill.

More importantly, though, I think this is the wrong question.

When I work with groups planning counterprotests, many of them quickly move to questions like “How do we defeat the haters?”

But, it’s like what your therapist tells you: You can’t change other people. (You can make more noise than them, stand between them and their targets, drive them off, and make life unpleasant for them, as some lovely contemporary Nazi hunters are doing. But you can’t change their hearts and minds.)

Angel Action

Above, counterprotesters participate in an Angel Action event to stand between anti-gay protesters and those they target. 

I work to reorient people asking that. Instead of asking how you can make the haters feel defeated, ask What does my response need to say about me? What does it need to say to the people I am responsible for? 

You are not responsible for these hateful people. (Unless you are, I mean–but those aren’t usually the folks asking this question.) You ARE responsible for the people they are attacking, narrowly (the actual people of color actually living in Charlottesville, Virginia, right now) and broadly (nonwhites everywhere). The more privilege you have to exercise, the more responsible you are for exercising it.

Your response is the only thing you can control. Rather than thinking about what you want to say to haters, who are very unlikely to be convinced by your counterprotest, you must keep your focus on what you want your legacy to be here. Then you need to make it happen. 

Will you be a person who intercedes with your body to protect those under physical attack?

Will you give your money to support justice?

Will you work behind the scenes, all the time, not just when hate groups show up, to root out hatred, violence, and aggression toward others?

Will you make the powerful listen to the voices of the powerless?

Will you amplify the words of the vulnerable?

Will you make the space for them to lead? Will you follow?

If you have been doing this right all along, then what you say now will align with what you have already done to keep others safe and free. If you haven’t been fighting hate, perhaps because you’ve been denying it, this is a good time to take stock (though not to express surprise. That’s just insulting to those who have been telling you about the racism, nativism, misogyny, homophobia, and ableism they’ve been facing.) and see how your silence has allowed this hate to take hold.

Though you will read much commentary arguing that, right now, white people coming to consciousness about white supremacy shouldn’t make it about them, I’m saying make this about you.  Not in the sense that your feelings are the feelings that matter now or that you should ask people of color to clue you in. Instead, make this about what kind of person you are. Are you a person who finds racism to be good, acceptable, or tolerable, or is hatred antithetical to your values in such a way as that you will actively oppose it?

White people, this is about us–our response to a hatred we have let grow. 







Who is responsible for the Republican White Supremacist Riots*?

Image result for andrew johnson

Andrew Johnson, who deliberately destroyed the possibility of holding white supremacists accountable for their actions, looks down from heaven and smiles on today’s GOP. 

Dear Joel,

In light of Trump’s failure in Charlottesville, my comments are brief and less kind than yours.

Charlottesville is not a surprise or even a revelation. It is exactly what many of us who opposed Trump said would happen when he was elected because it is exactly what his supporters wanted. He was elected by people who wanted this, for the purpose of achieving it. 

You are careful not to put every Trump voter into the “basket of deplorables,” but the same spirit that animates “Make America Great Again” rallies animates the violence in Charlottesville. Not every Republican likes it when violence erupts, but everyone who voted for Donald Trump is responsible for contributing to the climate where such violence will inevitably happen. You saw it as he advocated violence against peaceful protesters at his rallies. You saw it when he failed to immediately and with revulsion reject David Duke’s endorsement. This is just another expression of allegiance to the white supremacy that Trump has eagerly embraced. There is a reason why the mother of the young man who plowed his car into a crowd, killing one peaceful protester and injuring 19 more, thought her son was at a Trump rally: it’s because this white supremacist violence, which has always been there, was emboldened by Trump’s administration.

Does Trump, who has Jewish grandchildren those protesters would kill in gas chambers, believe in the white supremacy that had the protesters chanting Nazi slogans? That does not matter. Look: the man cannot denounce the Nazis who would kill his own grandchildren because he cannot bear to lose their adoration. With narcissism like that, you don’t need to feel racist to produce evil.

Trump can’t say “no” to this violence because this is his base: white men who see the threat to their unearned privilege as a cause worth killing for.

And he can’t say “no” to this because, even if he did, he would be a liar, and we now have more than a year of his flirtation with Nazis and Klansmen as evidence of it.

This is the culmination of Nixon’s Southern Strategy: to win the South by fostering white and resentment. Do not let Republicans be embarrassed by it now. It’s what they’ve chosen, year and year.  Every Republican who does not want to own this should, right now, speak against not just the violence in Virginia but a party, not just a president, who prefer Andrew Johnson over Abraham Lincoln.

Will they?

Why would they? In the absence of solutions to our common problems, a politics of white resentment is all they have.


*Thanks to my friend Todd for the language here.