• Daniélle Awogbemi

Mask Off: What the Charlottesville Hate March Shows Us About Contemporary Racism & White Denial

Updated: May 31, 2020

I am tired of the excuses. Sick of the lies. Bored of the crocodile tears. But most of all, I am angry at the willful ignorance and disgusted by the complacence. When discussing matters of racism and bigotry, people of color have been hit with every excuse in the white complacency handbook:

  • "Racists are only a small amount of people compared to all white people! You're being racist by generalizing!" Just a few words for that: Sixty-three percent and fifty-three percent. Next.

  • "They just haven't been taught why it's wrong." Funny. Could've sworn that history classes, the unlimited information available on the Internet, the news, and a plethora of books were all real, accessible things in the U.S. Silly me.

  • "Racism is mostly just in the South." The Blue Lives Matter flags and Make America Great Again lawn signs here in Jersey beg to differ.

  • "Old racists are dying out. Soon, there won't be any left." Racist ideologies are passed down from generation to generation. That's why racism is still alive when elderly racists are deceased. Nice try, though.

  • "This isn't the America I know! This stuff got bad again because of the presidential campaign." That's where privilege is involved. The America white people know and the America that black people know are two completely different places. No matter our economic status, black people don't have the luxury of rose-colored glasses or complimentary security blankets.

  • "Stop trying to make people feel guilty for being white!" What we want is for the white people who claim anti-racism and anti-bigotry to step the fuck up. Nobody gives two Trump tweets about making white people feel guilty about being white. If you feel guilty for being white when black people bring up our oppression, it's because you're aware that you don't actively do or say anything to try to combat racism and bigotry. Stop centering your feelings.

  • "Well, Black Lives Matter is just as racist as the KKK!" This one gets a lot of mileage. Short and sweet, but layered. So let's break it down, piece by piece. 1) White people can be discriminated against by black folks, but discrimination isn't the same as racism, which involves a power structure catering to a supremacist ideology and actual oppression. 2) BLM marches to raise awareness of the anti-black racism in America and has never once called for killing anyone. 3) White supremacists/white nationalists/neo-Nazis/the alt-right are violent, anti-black hate groups. They have a documented, lengthy, and gruesome history of torturing, assaulting, and murdering us because of that hatred.

The Series of Exculpatory Phrases goes on, but which one will be used to dismiss the Charlottesville hate march last night?

There are no clever words that can be used to aptly describe my disgust when I saw the news headlines this morning. I could feel my face contort, brows hurting from the sheer intensity of the expression. Well, I thought, it happened.


Thousands of racists, young and old, mobbed Charlottesville, Virginia last night. Brandishing torches and screaming racist epithets and neo-Nazi rhetoric, the "protestors" as some soft-gloved news outlets referred to them, banded together with "white nationalists" of every U.S. hate group to unify against a common enemy--black people. As I looked at photograph upon photograph of furious faces, one thing stood out: Not one single mask-wearer. The racists' haute couture included MAGA hats, preppy polos, shorts, and Nazi emblem fashion, but not the signature masked hood.


Odd. White people always insist that real racists wear masked hoods. So how could there be a mob of white supremacists, but no masked hoods present?

A true mystery.

I finished going through the pictures, then finished reading the rest of the news article. A sickening feeling tightened my stomach. Another hate rally, and white people still refuse to acknowledge what black people have been saying. Or at least, not nearly enough of them have. Anti-hate protestors from the University of Virginia and local areas had gathered to counter the hate-mongering, but they were vastly outnumbered.


That image sums up exactly what it's like being a black person in America. Every day, you're surrounded by hatred and shielded eyes, so you try to do your best to counter the hate with one hand while untangling the military-grade knots on the blindfolds with the other. It's an understatement to call the constant struggle aggravating, but then to add insult to injury, black people are also expected to tiptoe around the china shop of white feelings while the same white people completely disregard not only our feelings, but our humanity.


That lack of regard is shown when black folks are constantly told to soften our language when addressing our oppression, yet the same admonishment is never given to the white people who uphold the system of white supremacy. It's shown when we write dissertations, books, plays, articles, blog posts, Facebook posts, and tweets with the purpose of spreading awareness and educating white people about the oppression we face, and are met with accusations of reverse-racism and denial. It's shown when we tell white people how wrong it is to use our pain and our ancestors' torture as material for a modern-day slavery fantasy and we get told that we're overreacting about the disastrous, further emboldening impact it will have on racists. That it's for the greater good--to "educate other white people about racism" and show what could've happened in a legally-racist alternate reality.


Anyone want to tell them that real life already beat them to the punch on that alternate reality thing? The Confederate show's been running for the last three hundred years and unfortunately, it doesn't look like it'll be canceled any time soon.


The show's plot hasn't changed since the first episode, but a few seasons ago, the cast's wardrobe did get a reboot when most of them opted to ditch the masked hoods. I guess red baseball caps are just easier to accessorize.

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