YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
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August 2017

By Paula Penebaker, President & CEO, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin


Terrorism At Home

Equivocation: A statement that is not literally false but that cleverly avoids an unpleasant truth (Merriam-Webster). We’ve heard disturbing statements that were inappropriate in the wake of the Charlottesville, Virginia melee. What we witnessed was thuggish behavior by hateful people. Plain and simple.

Neo Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and others of their ilk are not “good people” or law abiding “Americans,” and no amount of revisionist history can make them so. Statements like “our ancestors built this country” are an affront to indigenous people from whom which the land was stolen and the thousands of African slaves that supplied the free labor to, in fact, build the nation. Chants of “blood and soil” to taunt Jews have not place here or elsewhere.

The fact that we experienced a terrorist act over the removal of a monument to a confederate general--the leader of a band of dissidents--is ludicrous, especially in light of the fact that the general himself, did not want to be recognized in that manner.

Robert E. Lee is quoted as stating when asked to sit and discuss a memorial, “I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.” One has to wonder why in the 21st century we see so much reverence for hateful history.

Public use of the swastika is banned in Germany where Hitler breathed hateful life to the symbol that was used for hundreds of years before he was a speck in the cosmos as a symbol of good fortune. What is going on in the minds of young, white, US-born men that make them feel it is appropriate to revive tired old symbols of hate?

At the YWCA, we are committed to helping people learn the value of facing white supremacy by naming it and understanding how racism was born as a result of it. IT WILL NOT GO AWAY unless we face it. Let’s not miss this opportunity to continue, or to engage in authentic dialogue about what has happened since August 11. Don’t fall victim to our US-centric, channel-surfing behavior of following the next shiny object before trying to understand what’s in front of us, today.