The camera panned to the trans woman taking the video, a local activist I’d followed when I moved to Charlottesville a few weeks earlier. Tears streamed down her red, swollen face. She had been pepper-sprayed.
“Where are you? We need you here!” she screamed at her followers watching her livestream. She was one of approximately 20 counterprotesters standing up against the sea of white supremacists.
In that instant, I knew I had to stop expecting people to show up. For weeks, I told myself people will show up on Aug. 12 to protest these thugs. I knew I wanted to go. I needed to go. But, out of fear, I told myself I wouldn’t.
Watching the activist’s livestream from the comfort of my bed, just a mile away, made me feel guilty.
I knew the real, uncomfortable reasoning behind my guilt: it is an extreme privilege, as a white person, to not anticipate needing to protest.
I texted my friend: We have to show up tomorrow.
After counter-protesting, I can say that same privilege is what afforded me the confidence to show up.
In school, I am encouraged to write about privilege and power, systemic racism, identity, agency, prejudice, etc. Because of this, I know, as a white person, I am responsible for dismantling white supremacy.
But, in those long hours, in those few streets, hate was trumping love. It felt like they were winning.
These terrorists have promised that they will keep showing up. This can happen anywhere. We have to show up. We can’t let them think they’re winning.