There are not two acceptable sides to the white supremacist and Nazi debates. We cannot “agree to disagree” about this issue.
You might consider my words disputable, but I do not. I accept that some may disagree with me, and that the First Amendment allows the articulation of any belief. But my conscience will not allow me to stand silent when I hear the pronouncements underlying white supremacy, Nazi-ism, and bigotry. I will not remain mute. I will express my unwavering belief that all persons have equal value. All persons deserve to walk our streets in safety, to enter our buildings without hesitance, to send their children to school without fear. No person, no law, no government, and no action should endorse bigotry of any kind without meeting a forceful and public rebuttal.
You may believe that you are superior, and you might even give voice to that belief. But I will not let such a repugnant belief echo through the air without resounding and relentless opposition.
I will no longer defend the right to articulate ugliness. I cherish the First Amendment . But when others use freedom of speech to express vile thoughts, I will raise my own voice in response. I will raise my voice loud. I will drown out the gross distortion of fact. I will let my cry join with the cries of men and women who share the fundamental values of acceptance, equality, and unity.
Be prejudiced. But be forewarned: I will no longer meet your bigotry with tacit acceptance.
We cannot be silent in the face of this stain on the record of the great American experiment. The citizens of this nation must unequivocally reject those who preach supremacy based on skin color, national origin, gender, religious belief, or any other human characteristic or benign behavior.
We cannot simply “agree to disagree”. When we hide behind the supposed virtue of that particular tactic of civil discourse, we send the unintended signal of endorsement. We must not let bigotry stand behind the veil of our gentility. Rather, men and women who prize equality must join hands, combine strength, and answer bigotry with a hail of unrelenting rejection.
Least of all should we tolerate even the slightest hint of violence levied in aid of bigotry — not for the briefest increment of time, nor with the merest speck of our being. We cannot meet terror such as the gross act which we saw this weekend in Virginia with anything less than swift and sound condemnation.
Any elected official who responds to this travesty short of full outrage should be taken to the strictest task. Americans fought, Americans died, both in battle and in the streets of our cities, for the cause of equality. We fought Nazis with our wounded bodies. We marched til the blisters rose on our feet. We fell into jail cells and prison camps. We became martyrs to the cause of civil rights.
We cannot surrender even a fraction of an inch of that which we gained by these bold and noble efforts. Nor can we yield the momentum of the years and the battles gone by. If we ‘agree to disagree’, we spit in the face of those who died in our streets and in the battlefield so that the rest of us could walk as equals on this land.
Say it with me then: the name of the most recent, the newest, American who died for freedom: Heather Heyer.
Call your senators.
Call your Congress members.
Call City Hall, the state house, and the White House.
Tell them. Tell them all. You will not let this happen in your city, your state, your country. And you will not remain silent. Your voice and your vote will be your rejoinder.
We do not agree to disagree. We will never agree to disagree. If you speak the words of bigotry, we will call you out, every time. We will not stay home and we will not stay silent.
Speak her name: Heather Heyer. She died in the act of protesting bigotry. Now I will step forward to speak her message. I will speak for equality. And I will speak for her.