Josey Ross is a social justice facilitator based in Vancouver
Much has been debated about the recent surge of the far right – in the U.S. and at home. How much attention should they get, in our everyday lives and in our media? Some contend the best strategy is to ignore them. If counter protesters didn't show up, some argue the white supremacists would give up and go home.
That's nice in theory, but in practice, letting white supremacists march and protest without opposition tells them that they are unopposed. And people with hateful racist ideologies do not just go quietly home when faced with silence. They are emboldened by it. They get bigger, louder, and more violent.
So on a Thursday night episode of Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, Tina Fey weighed into the debate. Ms. Fey expressed horror at the Charlottesville white supremacist march, and the Donald Trump's reluctance to outright denounce the hatred on display.
She suggested buying a sheet cake from a bakery owned by a Jewish person or a person of colour and then gorging on it. She proceeded to pull out an entire cake and stuff her face with it, declaring that "sheet-caking is a grassroots movement" while sharing facts and jokes about the white supremacist movement in America between mouthfuls.
When you want to yell to white supremacists that this country isn't theirs, that it was stolen from Native Americans, Ms. Fey concluded: "Don't yell it at the Klan... Yell it into the cake."
Ms. Fey concluded with this piece of advice for those wishing to stand up to demonstrations by white supremacists: "Don't show up."
At best, this is failed satire. At worst, it echoes and reinforces the calls from too many well-intentioned white people to just ignore racists and they'll go away. While white people have the option of ignoring the hateful, odious views of white supremacists, people of colour face the consequences of our wilful ignorance: violence and terror.
It is time for us to put down the metaphorical cake and start sticking up for others. We need to put our bodies, relationships, and money on the line. On this side of the border, rather than congratulating ourselves for being quiet and tolerant Canadians, we need to acknowledge our own racist history.
From the Chinese head tax to residential schools to the Komagata Maru, our history is steeped in racism, and that racism endures today. If you think that it doesn't, you're not listening. White Canadians need to listen to people of colour when they tell us their experiences and how those experiences affect their lives. And if we feel ourselves getting defensive, or thinking, "Well, I've never seen it, so it can't be true," every single white person needs to stop and consider that people of colour have knowledge and experiences white people will never have.
And once we've started listening, we need to start showing up. We need to show up to counter-protests when hate is being spewed. We need to talk to our family and friends about race and call out racism whenever we encounter it – whether it's a joke, a casually expressed stereotype, or down playing the terror that occurs when white supremacists march. (No, there have never been two sides sharing blame.) We need to give financially to the people who are most impacted and who are fighting the hardest. Give to anti-racism and social justice organizations. Support Black Lives Matter.
We need to learn how to put the safety of people of colour before our own feelings of discomfort. If you are showing up, if you are doing your part to challenge white supremacy and racism, there will be times when you feel uncomfortable and defensive, like you want to pack up and go home. Don't. Sit with the discomfort. Let it inform the next time you have a challenging conversation with another white person who gets defensive.
This is not easy work and none of us will be perfect at it. But it is unconscionable to suggest that white people can ignore the violence and hatred that seeks to terrorize people of colour. We must, each of us, find the ways to listen and to show up.