Home Opinion Denise Civiletti Silence is complicity: We must all stand up and speak out against...

Silence is complicity: We must all stand up and speak out against racism

Photo: Anthony Crider/Flickr CC BY 2.0

“Heather Heyer: Woman Killed in Road Rage Incident was a Fat, Childless 32-Year-Old Slut”

So shouted the Aug. 13, 2017 headline on the Daily Stormer — the far-right neo-Nazi website that helped organize the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where Heyer was killed and dozens of others injured when a Dodge Challenger driven by a 20-year-old Kentucky man rammed a crowd of counter-protestors after the white supremacist rally had ended.

The Daily Stormer’s publisher denies that Heyer was killed by the vehicle, claiming instead she died of a heart attack caused by obesity.

Andrew Anglin, a 34-year-old Ohio native, launched Daily Stormer on July 4, 2013. Drawing its name from the Nazi Party’s tabloid newspaper Der Stürmer, the Holocaust-denying website has a section called “Jewish Problem,” advocates for Jewish genocide, and routinely refers to blacks by the N word.

Anglin’s philosophy in his own words: “The goal is to ethnically cleanse White nations of non-Whites and establish an authoritarian government. Many people also believe that the Jews should be exterminated”.

His website is one of many that inflame white supremacists in America today.

And they are in our midst.

Sure, there’s been plenty of latent — and not so latent — racism around here for a very long time. But bigots now are more emboldened than they’ve been in decades. They are fueled by the rise of the alt-right and by the ascent to power of a president whose inner circle included Steve Bannon, founder of the alt-right website Breitbart News, Sebastian Gorka, supporter of the extreme-right neo-fascist Hungarian Guard, and the virulently (and ironically) anti-immigrant Stephen Miller. They are fueled by TV personalities like Fox News host Laura Ingraham, vocalizing her lament that “the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of “massive demographic changes… foisted upon the American people.”

So nowadays, emboldened bigots let it all hang out, whether in vile Facebook comments directed at anyone with a Latino name or getting in someone’s face in the supermarket line demanding that they “speak English” or telling them to “go back to where you came from.” (This has happened in Riverhead to people I know.)

One of the plastic bags containing flyers distributed in a Calverton neighborhood on Aug. 3.
Photo: Denise Civiletti

Recently, emboldened bigots have been distributing leaflets in our communities declaring “white lives matter” and urging residents to “take a stand” because “being white is still right.”

A curious resident wrote to the email address listed on the flyer — [email protected], a handle that includes well-known white supremacist numeric symbols, 14 and 88. (Fourteen is shorthand for the “14 words” slogan used by white supremacists and 88 stands for HH, “Heil Hitler.”

She got the following reply from WLM1488:

“Thank you for the support we are a movement that are spreading awareness of white genocide And how white people are losing there [sic] civil rights check out ower [sic] YouTube channel whitelivesmatterchannel.”

The featured video on their White Lives Matter channel today is an homage to the “Unite the Right” rally on Aug. 12, 2017, showing white men carrying Confederate and Nazi flags, many dressed in riot gear, clashing with counter-protestors.

The last frame of that video is the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo — used in violation of copyright — taken by photojournalist Ryan Kelly as the Dodge Challenger rammed the crowd. In the mayhem of that moment, forever frozen in time by that heart-wrenching photograph, bodies, shoes and glass fragments fly through the air. Somewhere in that mayhem, Heather Heyer, 32, a legal assistant in the bankruptcy division of Virginia law firm — a young woman described by those who knew her as pleasant, compassionate, funny and loving — drew her last breath.

The photojournalist who took that — on his last day of work at a newspaper that had just laid off newsroom staff due to budget cuts — told the Washington Post this week he still finds that photo difficult to look at. So do I. And so would any human being with an ounce of compassion in their heart, right?

The image though, is a source of perverse pride for the White Lives Matter mob, which ends its romanticized video about that ugly day in Charlottesville with that stolen image, followed by this chilling message:

”UNITED WE STAND. DIVIDED THEY FALL. UNITE THE RIGHT. EXPECT US EVERYWHERE. #WHITELIVESMATTER”

And they are everywhere. As evidenced by the leaflets dropped in driveways of a Calverton neighborhood last week and in Center Moriches last month, they are here.

It’s up to all of us to “take a stand” — a stand against hate, a stand against racism, a stand against violence. It’s up to us — you and me — to stem the rising tide of white supremacist, nationalist movements in our midst.

Silence is complicity. Speak out. Don’t allow hate speech to go unanswered.

We must also demand that our elected officials at all levels of government take a stand against white supremacy groups like these. Their silence is also complicity — even worse, it’s actually enabling. Not one elected official stood up to condemn the leafletting in Calverton last week. As taxpayers and voters we must send a clear message that we will not abide the silence of our elected officials in the face of racism and the resurgence of white supremacist groups in our communities. Leaders have an obligation to lead.

You may think these groups are just a fringe minority. I invite you to think again. The Nazis whom they so admire and model themselves after were also once a fringe minority in Germany. Ignoring them will not make them go away. Silence is complicity. Speak out.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.