Current Events

10 Everyday Ways Charlottesville and White Supremacy Are Allowed to Still Happen

Jemar Tisby

On Friday, white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville in a rally full of racist iconography. They marched at night, carried torches, and chanted “We will not be replaced!” But deplorable incidents like this rally are only the most visible displays of the white supremacy that are allowed to flourish in mundane ways all across the country.

It is not the episodic marches and rallies that define white supremacy, it is the ordinary, dull ways that society props up the racial caste system that lead to the most egregious offenses. American citizens, particularly white people, have to realize how they unintentionally allow Charlottesville and white supremacy to happen.

Here’s a list of ten ways people allow white supremacy to reign in America.

1. Elect a president who plays on racist, nationalistic, xenophobic tropes to enflame a base that feels like they are being “replaced” by immigrants and minorities—a man who the KKK and white nationalist groups love to endorse. Allow said president to systematically assemble a cabinet of people who endorse his bigotry and can enact it in word and deed. Meanwhile, ignore the vigorous warnings of the marginalized people his leadership will most adversely affect.

2. Never treat racism as an actual sin in the church. It’s a just a social issue and shouldn’t be discussed in the pulpit or the pews. Therefore Christians are never discipled in how to think about race in a biblical way, much less oppose it.

3. Fight tooth and nail to preserve Confederate monuments and flags, venerate Confederate people and events—the cultural artifacts that celebrate white supremacy. Do all this while refusing to acknowledge how the preservation of such symbols perpetuate a racial caste system and a longing among some citizens for the days when America was “great” (i.e. when women, “coloreds” and the rest knew their place, and white men were more dominant).

4. Show private support for people of color but never risk anything by publicly proclaiming solidarity with the marginalized and letting the racists around you know that you won’t tolerate their trash. Have the backs of minorities…waaaay back.

5. Put almost all the burden for rectifying racism on minorities by telling them, “We want you to come to *our* spaces”, by asking them questions you could easily find the answers to on your own (Google it!), or by telling them in myriad ways that they need to change to fit the dominant culture and leave their own culture at the door.

6. When a major racial incident happens at your church, job, or other institution, downplay its seriousness, make no substantive changes, and wait for the controversy to cool down so you can go back to business as usual.

7. Pursue diversity without pursuing equity/sharing power in your church, job, or organization. Then pat yourself on the back when your student body, congregation, or employee base shows any diversity whatsoever, never mind that their presence makes no real difference. The minorities in your organization are forced to assimilate instead of bringing their whole selves and creating true diversity.

8. When another racist incident makes national headlines, make a big show of supporting people of color on social media and then continue voting for the same candidates with the same racially atavistic policy platforms, continue attending the same churches that endorse white supremacy through acts of commission or omission, keep allowing family members, friends, and acquaintances who hold racist ideas without confronting them, keep silencing people of color when they level charges of racism, and basically change absolutely nothing once the furor dies down.

9. Believe we’re “post-racial.” Pretend the Civil Rights movement solved all our most serious racial problems, secretly ask yourself “What more do these people want?” and convince yourself all “these people” must be exaggerating or overly sensitive.

10. Think that racism and white supremacy only negatively affect people of color and not the white people who learn to live with a lie about themselves and the world around them. Remember, white supremacy leaves everyone broken and bloody.

I could go on, but you get the point. Please don’t fall into the error of thinking that these events represent only a fringe element. I mean, they are a minority, but they are given permission by the majority to practice their hatred. Christians, particularly white Christians, must so stand against white supremacy that such views could never be publicly proclaimed.

Further, to the extent that they are held private, Christians must confront this sin, no matter how costly. Only then will we begin to crack the shell of white supremacy that covers the American church.

16 thoughts on “10 Everyday Ways Charlottesville and White Supremacy Are Allowed to Still Happen

  1. Joe Reed

    Thanks Matt.

    I get it – I can’t share in certain experiences by virtue of my race, the era in which I live, my place on the map. But truth transcends experience, and we can learn truth together.

    Saying that our president “plays on racist, nationalistic, xenophobic tropes to enflame a base that feels like they are being “replaced” by immigrants and minorities” is not an experience, it’s a truth claim. I dispute the truth of the statement. Maybe I’m wrong, but I need to see the evidence. I heard him condemn racism. So talk to me about it. Because if the president is those things, and I’m his “base,” it turns out apparently I’m someone I never thought I was. Maybe I am. Show me. Talk to me. For goodness sake, when we push back, we’re looking for truth. Help us, that’s my plea.

  2. Matt Norman

    You accuse yourself of not being able to communicate what ypeople ur feeling well, but you did a wonderful job. I am a white, straight, conservative, Christians man. This means that basically everything that is wrong with society is my fault according to some group out there.

    I have experienced exactly what you talked about. I have on many occasions tried to engage people in open, honest and respectful discussion about topics such as this only to have then accuse me further, call me names and question everything from my heart, to my relationship with Jesus, to the marital status of my parents at the time of my birth.

    I truly believe that the only way any of this gets any better is through open. honest, respectful discussion. So far my experience has been that most people aren’t interested. Nonetheless, I will continue Tom look for the people that want it as much as I do.

  3. Joe Reed

    Mr. Tisby,

    Could I just beg you to make careful, thoughtful answer to the comments by Andrea, Chris, and JC? These three echo my thoughts and sentiments better than I can say them. To me, they are kind, thoughtful, and rational, while your article is reactionary, accusatory, and emotion driven. I don’t understand your logic; I do theirs. We certainly don’t have different logic because there is only one truth. So please help us by persuading us, guilting us only works so long as the emotion runs hot; reason and truth stand forever.

    If you are speaking truth, you must have rational responses to our brothers and sisters who look different than you, and I really want to hear them. Truth transcends all races and cultures, that’s the glory of the gospel. I don’t like feeling like you’re talking past, over, or against me because I’m white, and I’m frustrated when I feel like we’re not getting reasonable, logical, non-political, non-agenda driven answers to our questions. We really do care for your plight Mr. Tisby, and we really wrestle with whether or not your accusations against us are true. Our consciences clear us, but as Paul said, we are not by this acquitted.

    I hear your anger, I hear your frustration. But I hear it against me and my family, and it’s confusing. You are our brother, talk to us, dialogue with us, but please not at us. We aren’t getting it.

  4. Andrea Bonner

    I used to read a lot of your articles but I’m not seeing Christ in them. I see identity politics and racial strife.
    My family is mixed race. I do stand up for issues that effect all people bc all people are effected by racism. The POC and the racists. Yes, I pray for them too.
    My four yr old granddaughter is black. I have steeled myself to respond with love when the day comes that she understands what racism is…. but I’m praying it will be an opportunity to share the love of Christ with someone who needs it.
    I never see “forgiveness” in your articles. The response to the one comment about being a troll was really disheartening.
    I’m white, I won’t apologize for that nor would I want a black, Indian or Asian person to apologize for their nationality.
    I voted for Trump bc he was the only pro- life candidate. I didn’t pick him but I’m not unhappy with him. I don’t think he’s a racist. I don’t read hearts but I don’t think he is any more or less racist then President Obama or the Clintons.
    I wished he’d handled this last situation better but he acts like a construction worker far more then a politician. If he were a politician he’d have known not to speak the truth. There were two sides being violent in VA.
    I don’t think he should have addressed the alt-left at this time. I do think all things involving the Confederacy should be REMOVED FROM GOVT PROPERTY. Losers don’t get to celebrate…. the alt-right stood with Nazis and no decent American could stand with them. Two wars, both the losers so let them march and whine and take those statues down and the Confederate Flag. No need to riot, just do it.
    If Trump were a good politician he’d have said all the correct things… and we still wouldn’t know his heart.
    We do know the left is anti-Christian, pro-abortion and uses race to divide this country. How any Christian votes for them I just don’t understand. Again, I don’t know how we got a Trump/ Hillary ticket either. My husband refused to vote for President and just voted all the other choices. I find Trump hopeful… scary but hopeful.
    Sadly, you miss the part where the church has moved into every area of the country and tried to heal the divide. Your eyes are closed to the over-whelming majority of Americans that just want equal opportunities for everyone. Trump thinks jobs is the answer, I think we need God. ….. and jobs, education but mostly love. A few civil rights leaders with some moral backbone would help too.
    Mostly, I just want all people to know Christ. So no I won’t march about statues, even though I want them removed bc I won’t participate in divisive politics or end up standing next to people with baseball bats and helmets who scream hatred back at the haters.
    Where is Christ in your writings? Where is the love your enemies?
    I’m very sorry Mr. Tisby, There was a time you offered so much and you still can but ranting about Donald Trump and implying that most whites are supremacists is truly disheartening.
    May God open all our eyes and hearts to what and where we can be part of the healing.

  5. Chris Stanfill

    As a Christian who read this I’d like to respond to author point by point (Guess it’s gotta be lengthy) :

    1. The vast vast majority of Trump voters did not vote for him for racist ideas- maybe .0025% did if that. Furthermore, that concept has lead to terrible violence against innocent white people across the country. I’m tired of seeing that narrative pushed. Trump has an excellent record on racial issues, unlike Mrs. Clinton (who mocks the accents of colored people and refers to what should be juvenile misdemeanor offenders as “super-predators.”). Trump may help inner city crime and violence while Mrs. Clinton campaigned with the proponents of the drugs, sex, alcohol culture that has damaged black America terribly. I think the DNC runs on class warfare politics. Hillary often mentions Robert Byrd was a great mentor to her. Come on…if you claim a vote for Trump was a vote for White Supremacy, then you have to throw out all of the other issues that people actually supported him on and ignore the concept that Democrats need racism to get elected.

    2. I grew up in First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. I was baptized there. The upstairs balcony use to be for the slaves. I have repeatedly heard racism of any sort denounced as a sin in every church I’ve attended- or I would have left! That Church still maintains a close relationship with the AME Zion Church that split off from it over 100 years ago.   Also, let’s not forget that the last DNC President attended a church that used ethnicity in the name of it’s theology (Black Liberation Theology). We all heard the pastor announce “God Damn America.” I honestly feel the DNC has the same attitude. I don’t feel that is what God wants from his church. I will allow no preference of race in a Church I attend. Their is only one race- humanity. The MOST DIVERSE church on Earth (ethnically), is the Catholic Church who we all know is VERY conservative…

    3. Confederate monuments do not celebrate White Supremacy any more than the American Flag celebrates the Trail of Tears. Even Lincoln admitted in his own biography that the war was not about freeing the slaves. This is revisionist history that can be quickly dispelled with facts. Furthermore, there is no one fighting tooth and nail to keep the monuments up. They are coming down all over the place, sometimes with police protection. This is also a fitting place to throw in a basic fact, Jason Kessler who organized the riot in Charlottesville was an Occupy Wall Street Organizer and Obama supporter….hmmm, let that sink in for a minute.

    4. I literally don’t know of any “racists around me” to let know that I won’t tolerate their trash. Every single white person I know shakes their head in sorrow when they see young black people throwing their future away with a deviant culture- that is not racist because they do the same when they see a white person throwing their future away on the same sinful lifestyle. I am not talking about African culture. I am talking about thug culture in America. This goes for young white people caught up in it too. If I run across some racists I’ll let them know. Most black Americans are more marginalized by a welfare state and a political party that thrives off of their poverty than they are the successful class of Americans that are not at all racist.

    5. What the hell is this guy even talking about…”our spaces?” What “culture” is he talking about? I thought this was racism? Freudian slip?

    6. Sometimes one of our CNC operators at my last job would joke with one of our Columbian employees by calling him “chicken legs.” They are great friends and really enjoy each other at work…

    7. I would prefer we not see color. There are SO MANY African-Americans now rising to the top of organizations all over the country. Why are we pretending like there are not?! Diversity is being achieved. The doors are now open and in many cases benefit minorities. Ben Carson was absolutely RIDICULED by the liberal media, and his message of hope and inspiration for young black youth completely SHUT DOWN. Most conservatives truly believe that is what the DNC wants to happen and they vote Conservative with hope that things can improve.

    8. There are a whole sect of people out there, of all races (just on party though, the DNC) who literally scream RACISM! at everything that happens. If you level charges of racism, they should have to be supportable. Half the “racist” incidents that make national headlines now are laughable. For example, in Charlottesville this last weekend, a white guy drove over a white girl in his Dodge Challenger and a bunch of complete freaking idiots from Antifa and Nazi groups acted like morons. Honestly, it’s not even news.

    9. They are not overly sensitive people. They are on the take. They have a victim card and they want to play it. Until we say hell no bad shit is going to keep happening. Think about it.

    10. Let’s definitely not mention the fact that there is now a black supremacy movement and nine LEO’s have died thus far, some of them African-American. If black lives matter, stop shooting each other. It isn’t white people doing it.

    The current racial issues are 100% political and until I am proven wrong I will stand by my statements, point by point. I will do anything I can to help anyone of color and there is no racism in my life, family, or friends. If anything, that response should help you understand where the other side comes from. Cheers.

  6. William

    White supremacists are stupid and horrible. However, you forgot some everyday reasons why they exist:
    1. Applying race logic inconsistently toward white people
    2. Continueing to lump all white people into the same group when they represent a wide array of cultures, histories and perspectives
    3. Adopting utterly racist ideas like white privilege
    4. Never acknowledging that white people genuinely experience hate and racism themselves
    5. Always poking at and alienating white people as a group, which they are not, without recognizing what you have in common and what they have done well

    I’m sorry but you can’t say that all white people are racists, as is so often done, and expect the majority of them to listen. These are tactics you would never employ in any other broken relationship. Why here? Because let’s face it, you struggle with the sin of racism (as it is traditionally defined) too. Deep down, you think white people are worse and you are better.

    I’m so sad because articles like this are trying to help, but they never will until the above reasons are addressed sincerely. This is not a conversation.

    As long as white people feel damned if you do and damned if you don’t, things will only get worse. That’s not a threat, because I despise white supremacy, it’s the truth that no one wants to hear right now. Keep turning the screws and race relations will only get worse.

  7. JC

    Mr. Tisby,

    Here is my question:

    You say “Elect a president who plays on racist, nationalistic, xenophobic tropes to enflame a base that feels like they are being “replaced” by immigrants and minorities—a man who the KKK and white nationalist groups love to endorse”


    “When another racist incident makes national headlines, make a big show of supporting people of color on social media and then continue voting for the same candidates with the same racially atavistic policy platforms, continue attending the same churches that endorse white supremacy through acts of commission or omission, ……..”

    With regards to Christians, it seems that you are insinuating/implying that voting for Donald Trump is racist and therefore sinful. Is that a correct interpretation of what you are saying?

    Thank you.

  8. Matt Norman

    Thanks for your reply and your willingness to help me understand the deeper issues here.

    As a nurse for nearly two decades, when you talk of symptoms you use language I can clearly understand. I agree that in all cases the greater concern is to treat the disease and not simply the symptoms. However, ignoring the symptoms is also not a good idea. When it comes to understanding a disease, sometimes the firstborn step is a greater understanding of the symptoms. For instance, if you wanted to know what a person having a heart attack FELT like, then you would talk to them about symptoms. You’d want to know about the pressure in their chest, or the pain in their shoulder or neck. You wouldn’t start by talking about blockages in this coronary arteries. Talk with that person about their symptoms will help you to understand and, therefore, better treat the disease.

    I spent nearly 20 years working in an emergency room. When a person comes in having a heart attack ALL they care about is their symptoms. Yet when it comes to the issue of race it seems so few people are willing to openly discuss the symptoms. I want desperately to see past the broken glass, past the fires, past the actions to see the people and their pain. I want to understand their hurts. I want to understand their pain. I can’t do that if people are unwilling to talk with me about it.

    I pray regularly that God would connect me with people that can help me understand. I long for open, honest discussion about this. Thanks for providing that for me, even if only for a moment.

    Matt N.

  9. Mic

    Matt, good question. Unfortunately-that question is quite typically deflects from the ROOT issue. There are white people in America who believe their DNA makes them better and as a result have justified ships of the most heinous crimes against humanity because “they” “deserve” to have it better.

    Point blank, black people are not rioting for their health. As wrong as those actions are-what black people understand about other black people is that many are tired, hurt, frustrated, and hopeless. Many white Americans fail to sympathize with the REASONS and MOTIVATION behind these actions and instead opt to focus SOLELY on the fact that these actions are wrong.

    Case and point, this article is about white people taking responsibility for THEIR collective actions and the negative impact those actions typically have on communities of color and other marginalized groups. This article is about how white Americans – who have been apathetic, unintentionally complicit, ignorant, naive, and all – can help change the tide of racism (and the subsequent TERRORISM it brings) in this great country.

    Black people rioting is a symptom. The disease is white supremacy. The disease is the utter TERROR supremacist groups have generated through years of public MURDERS, public denial of justice, public perpetuation of injustices and more. Let’s have an open dialogue. But let’s not talk about nausea when the issue is cancer. We need to FIX/HEAL/REMOVE the cancer. And to be DOUBLY clear…white PEOPLE ARE NOT the cancer-but, they can be the ANSWER.

  10. Jeriah Knox

    Is there an underlying bitterness against God, being expressed by rioters on both sides?

  11. Matthew


    As a guy that, like Matt Norman, is trying to is trying to foster a better understanding, to question my motives and preconceptions, and to keep the gospel at the center of my opinions, I found your second two paragraphs very helpful. Thank you. They had an effect on the way I see these issues.

    But please understand that, by accusing someone of trolling when they humbly put themselves out there and asked a question without being disrespectful, you make people afraid to have this conversation that it is important for us to have. I think it is counterproductive.

  12. Matt Norman

    I thank you for your reply. Sadly, your reply is indicative of why there is not as much true, open discussion about these issues as their should be.

    I simply asked a question. My intent was truly to better understand. If all we do is talk, and never listen, then all we ever understand are our own viewpoints, never the viewpoints of others.

    I simply asked a question. I never stated any opinions about the riots. You assumed my viewpoint and my opinions for me. I asked your opinion and you very clearly and respectfully offered it. However, instead of asking my opinion, you assumed it and accused me of “trolling”.

    I’m sorry if my intentions were not clear. I will continue to seek a better understanding of the viewpoints of people that don’t look, think, or believe like I do. Sadly, some days that’s much harder that in should be.

    If you’re interested in actually learning who I am and what I think, you have my email address, feel free to use it.

    I truly hope you have a great day.

    Not a Troll (just a guy trying to grow beyond myself)

  13. Conrad Deitrick

    Matt, being charitable to you, it looks like you are trying to formulate and apply a kind of neutral principle to govern our response to people protesting.

    There’s a fundamental problem with that, and that is that black people and white people in America are not similarly situated. And the different situated-ness is not inherent or a result of fair chance, but a direct result of the deliberate actions of white people and white institutions over hundreds of years and many generations. So most “neutral rules” like the one you are hinting at, wind up favoring white people and reinforcing white dominance.

    But on top of that, the application of the rule you’re hinting at is also flawed: black people protesting in response to young black people dead at the hands of police is not in any way equivalent to a white nationalist rally. The problem is not that “a demonstration has gotten out of hand.” (Which would be a rule that overwhelmingly favors the white-dominant status quo, by the way.) The problem is that the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally is evil through and through. It’s not some kind of a neutral or noble protest that has just gotten unruly. Even if it had been the most peaceable rally in the history of rallies, it would still be reprehensible, because it’s a white nationalist rally.

    So stop for a minute and examine yourself very closely, because what you are doing (whether or not you realize it) is implying that there is a moral equivalency between anger pain over young black men being shot by police on the one hand and overt white nationalism and white supremacy on the other. Just stop and think about this before you dig in, because you are making a huge mistake.

    Okay, that’s it. That’s the discussion you get: I took you at your word that you’re genuinely interested in answers and gave them to you. That’s a huge courtesy, because honestly, on the face of it, you basically look like you are trolling.

  14. Matt Norman

    You make some really good and valid points here. I hope that your up for some open discussion about the topic since that is my desire. However, if we can’t discuss it openly, then just ignore this comment as I’m truly not interested in arguing.

    You say that people like the ones in Charlottesville are “given permission by the majority to practice their hatred.” Is the same not also true when African Americans riot, burning and trashing their own town and cities and many in the African American community fail to speak out against it?

    Again, I’m not trying to argue. I actually care deeply about this subject and believe that the only way to make any progress is to actually talk about it.

  15. J.R. Miller

    Some excellent points we must all take to heart. One question though for the sake of clarity on the use of the term nationalism.

    In point #1 you string together a series of 3 epithets, ” racist, nationalistic, xenophobic.” Racism and xenophobia are unequivocally sinful with no redeeming value for society. But why is nationalism in there? Although generally, I despise the use of Wikipedia, their definition starts off, “Nationalism is a range of political, social, and economic systems characterised by promoting the interests of a particular nation, particularly with the aim of gaining and maintaining self-governance, or full sovereignty, over the group’s homeland.”

    So given this broad definition of this political term, we know that people like William Wallace, Ghandi, and Nelson Mandella were nationalists.

    Those that ground their nationalism in bigotry (e.g. David Duke and Louis Farrakhan) are clearly racists, but nationalism is not the core problem… it is their racism.

    So I am curious to understand why you decided to mix in a term like nationalism (which has at times in history been used to free people from oppression) with other terms like racism that are completely evil? To make your overall point (which is laudable), is the risk of confusing readers unfamiliar with the larger history to broad-brush other historical figures with such a negative association?

    Curious for your thoughts and thanks for your time.

  16. George Canady

    Praying for you many times over the last few weeks. Please be encouraged and strengthened by our Lord as we continue to long for and pursue the purity of the church through the helpful and needed rebuke of this historic ethnic church sin. Please be Patient and forgive those pastors who refuse to obey Gods command to speak out against it. Please keep talking about it until they repent, and they will repent now or on the day of Jesus. May we all examine our motives in these things. Praying for us now.

Leave A Comment