I can certainly recognize the best days of my life. My wife and two small daughters make those choices easy. It's far more afflicting to recognize the worst days of my life.
One such day was June 17, 2015: when a white supremacist walked into a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina wielding a handgun. It was the worst act of racist violence since the 1963 Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.
Another, on August 12, 2018: when white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Klansmen converged on Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in mob violence and the killing of a counter-protester, Heather Heyer.
My older daughter was four months old when the Charleston attack happened. My youngest only four days old when Heather Heyer was killed. The knowledge that I was bringing my children into a world where these horrendous attacks could happen was almost too much to bear at the time; I was numb for days.
Then, this past October: the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. An anti-Semite who hated the Jewish community's support of immigrants killed 11 people during holy services.
In February, a Coast Guard lieutenant who aimed to make a "white homeland" was stopped before carrying out terrorist attacks with biological weapons and a stockpile of firearms.
Then there are the less widely-known attacks: the racist attack on an African-American DJ in Lynwood, Washington; the bombing of a mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota by two members of a white nationalist militia; or the regular violence perpetrated by the white supremacist Rise Above Movement.
As these racially or religiously motivated white supremacist crimes have rolled out since the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, I've felt less and less. I don't know if that's a personal failing, or just a feeling of hopelessness against such a bleak picture. But I acknowledge it's the wrong response. The latest story out of New Zealand drove that home.
The attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand were uniquely horrifying events. A 28-year-old Australian man, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, live-streamed his rampage inside two mosques. The first person the attacker encountered said "Hello, brother," to him before the gunman opened fire. Fifty men, women, and children were killed.
How does one become so radicalized to believe that genocide is the answer? How does one build up so much hate that they are driven to kill?
The answer is power. More accurately, white supremacists' belief that they are losing power to non-whites.
For centuries, power structures have favored people of European origin over people of color: colonialism by the global North at the expense of the global South, slavery, forced migration, theft of land and resources, segregation, and apartheid. Even after overt political violence toward non-white people tapered off in the 20th century, racial exclusion from tracts of real estate, from sports, from higher education, and from the labor market continued around the world. In recent decades, with globalization and armed conflict resulting in more migration, immigrants, too, have become downtrodden populations.
Due to the ongoing and tireless work of social advocates, these gaps have been steadily closing. Worldwide society is becoming more egalitarian, and more groups are being included. (Though, to be clear, this is not happening fast enough, and economic inequality worldwide still harms everyone.)
That shift to more equality has enraged lingering white supremacists. Per an uncredited saying: "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression." In other words: white supremacists interpret more equality for historically-oppressed people as oppression at white people's expense. For radicals prone to violence, they interpret it as an act of war.
This viewpoint must not only be rejected, it must be denied a platform at all. Once a reprehensible idea has "lost" in the supposed "marketplace of ideas," it doesn't deserve a second chance. Racist domination was rejected in the 20th century: the defeat of Nazi ideology, Jim Crow laws in the American South, and South African apartheid are a few such examples. These ideas don't deserve a new booth in the marketplace of ideas.
As for constructively helping historically-oppressed people: the tireless social advocates I mentioned above have those answers. For decades, they've tell us what people need have a fair chance at self-determination. It's on us to listen and to help our brothers and sisters who ask for help.
It is also on us to reject any hints or suggestions of white supremacist ideology. The time for polite neutrality has passed. We must commit to making white supremacy's days numbered.
Sean Goodbody is a Grand Junction attorney representing injured workers all over western Colorado. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.