This is Us: How a Twitter Hashtag Gave Us New Perspective on Charlottesville

This is Us: How a Twitter Hashtag Gave Us New Perspective on Charlottesville

Addressing White nationalism will take more than a Twitter hashtag.

Addressing White nationalism will take more than a Twitter hashtag.

It was a well-meaning gesture.

Saturday night on Twitter, the hashtag #thisisnotus emerged as a way to assert that the day's events in Charlottesville were not representative of who we are as a country. The intent was to reiterate how the White nationalist/Nazi/Alt-right protestors were not indicative of the population as a whole and that there would be those who would stand in opposition to those forces. At the end of a trying day, aided by a blubbering buffoon unable to speak ill toward his hood-wearing supporters, the hashtag seemed destined to give closure to those deeply disturbed by what had transpired. 

But then a funny thing happened in the Twitterverse. The hashtag was hijacked, not by conservative trolls or Russian bots, but rather by a number of progressives, primary people of color. These Twitter users took umbrage with the hashtag, not because of its intent but rather its execution. They pointed out that actually, the events in Charlottesville are representative of who we are a country. These users pointed out that from Native American genocide to slavery to Japanese internment to mass incarceration, our country has always had a dark and unpleasant undercurrent of people willing to destroy the lives of others in order for their own personal gain. A White supremacist mindset has always been prevalent in our country and despite it lying dormant for various periods of time, it has and will continue to exist in this country for the foreseeable future. 

And it was this pushback to the hashtag that made it more powerful than it would have been otherwise. Because it's one thing to cheerlead and say that these knuckle draggers in Charlottesville don't speak for us. But it's another thing entirely to acknowledge that White supremacy and racism didn't suddenly begin with the election of Donald Trump. In order to begin to have serious conversations about the reemergence of Nazism, we have to understand how and why we got to where we are. History doesn't occur in a vacuum; there are many factors that ultimately lead to an event. Understanding these factors and how they are interrelated serves as an invaluable foundation for all involved in the process. 

And it is up to all of us to engage in this process. Those present in Charlottesville aren't going to see the error of their ways anytime soon. Thanks to a feckless White House, these mongrels have no reason to hide or feel shame for their actions. But for the rest of us, it is not enough to send a couple feel-good tweets. What we are dealing with is the same destructive mindset that has led to the darkest moments in our nation's history. We know what these cretins are capable of and we know what happens when we are apathetic or indifferent to their actions. Moving forward, difficult conversations will have to occur involving such complex issues as prejudice, racism, White privilege, and intersectionality. However, these conversations can only occur if people are aware of the severity of the issues at hand as well as the historical context behind them.

By realizing these issues can't be solved in a simple tweet, we have a good place to start.



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