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Why #ThisIsNotUs is the wrong reaction after Charlottesville

As put by Lorde: ‘All white people are responsible for this system's thrive and fall’

Since news of the Charlottesville attack broke, certain sects of white liberals on the internet have been up in arms, desperate to distance themselves from the incident.

Using the hashtag #ThisIsNotUs, they have been on a misguided martyrdom trip, keen to tell us marginalised folk that not all white people want to ram cars into anti-racist and anti-fascist protestors. Yes, it's important to show solidarity during a time like this. But not through separating yourself from the problem. We all know that “not all white people” want to harm us so directly.

What is arguably more important is recognising how pretty much all white people benefit from white supremacy in the Western world and beyond. White privilege is specific. It is not a broad term which is saying that white people cannot suffer from different types of oppression and prejudice; it is an acknowledgement of the fact that systemic oppression against people of colour (and particularly black people in the US), undeniably exists – from the prison system, policing and even education.

Because of this, as teen actress Rowan Blanchard posted on Instagram earlier today, “All white people are responsible for the upholding of white supremacy and for the fall of it”. Singer Lorde also said that: “All white people are responsible for this system's thrive and fall. We have to do better”. Boom. Let's give them a round of applause. They've hit the nail on the head.

But for a lot of white people, the admittance that they are in any way associated with the young white men, and some women, who are being radicalised into a hatred of a definable “other” is too much to bear. I do get it. Recognising ones privileges is fucking hard, and can send you into a guilt-spin, which you try to justify your way out of. But what is always useful is taking a step back. Your white privilege is not a comment on your character, just as my light-skin privilege, as a mixed-race person, isn't a comment on mine.

In this case, the cause of both the Charlottesville rally and James Fields’ decision to harm anti-fascist protestors is so obviously linked to centuries of a certain group of people using their skin colour as a way to prop them above the rest of the world, colonising, killing, enslaving and the othering those of us who end up in “their” territory, even though they have often decimated ours.

Day to day as PoC we see white supremacy in little instances of racism, or lack of representation, or stereotyping: those tiny little microaggressions that build up until we’re bleaching our skin and trying to assimilate to whiteness because (understandably) we want access to some of that privilege. It sounds grand, and hard to quantify, but do your research and you'll realise that this framework of events is easy to trace through history.

Over in the UK, people have been cracking out the usual tropes, claiming that what happened in Charlottesville could never happen here. It's true that in the UK, when a neo-nazi rally is called, the fascists are usually outnumbered by the amount of counterprotesters – but it's also a dangerous myth that we don't have our own, insiduous brand of neo-nazis and racists who would be just as pleased with James Alex Fields’ actions as certain factions of the alt-right are in America.

It was so worrying on Friday night to see the images of young campaigners surrounded and vastly outnumbered by a flood of white supremacist men, aged between 20-30, holding flaming torches aloft to the night sky, chanting “You will not replace us”, “Blood and soil”, and doing Nazi salutes.

“It was so worrying on Friday night to see the images of young campaigners surrounded and vastly outnumbered by a flood of white supremacist men, aged between 20-30”

But thousands of miles away and safe in my London bed, I still felt that prickle of fear from the reminder that black and brown people are hated for our melanin. I remembered arguing with National Front racists on the internet, the many times I've been labelled a “nigger”, the time where an American racist said he wanted to slit my throat.

And mainly I remember that just last year a neo-nazi in the UK killed Jo Cox, an MP. Just a few months ago, another angry white man ran over and killed a Muslim man outside of a mosque in a suspected terror attack.

This is the reality of Trump's America and Brexit Britain. More and more white fascists are becoming emboldened by the idea that they have an inherent, god-given superiority over their darker-skinned, immigrant or Jewish countrymen. Trump was supported by the KKK in the run up to his premiership.

Now, we actually see the alt-right seeking sympathy for their fellow fascists, those who have been hit with pepper spray by the police, or maced. One of the white nationalist men caught on camera marching, Peter Cvjetanovic, has claimed that he is “not the angry racist they see in that photo”. He is.

To prevent these men from taking the behaviours we saw in Charlottesville any it from happening again we need to really address the mundane and long entrenched root causes of the white supremacist mindset. And society needs to start listening to people of colour and anti-fascist campaigners who have warned about the re-normalisation of far-right ideologies. Acknowledgement is the first step towards redemption.