If I told you Nazis were marching down the street, chanting “Blood and Soil,” waving the infamous red with black swastika flag, you’d think I were giving a history report. 2017 would not appear in your mind; 1938 would. But, guess what? That exact thing happened. This month in Virginia, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK, and other hate groups gathered with lit torches and Confederate and Nazi flags. Heavily militarized, they terrorized the town. Groups like antifa, BLM — organizations that stand for equality — bravely faced off with the supremacists. One counter-protestor died in action. Our own Dr. Cornel West, along with other clergy who were at the counter-protest, said that if it was not for antifa, they “would have been crushed like cockroaches.”
And yet, Trump blamed both sides for the violence. Two out of the three times he has addressed the chaos, he didn't accuse the white supremacists directly. By doing so, he indirectly (I would say intentionally as well) gave support to the neo-Nazis. In 2017, on live television, Trump openly supported fascism.
The United States of America has no president. Trump cannot accurately command one of the most diverse countries in the world if he either believes, or gains his support from individuals who believe, that white genocide is happening. They think that an incredibly large percentage of the population is “inferior,” that those “inferior people” are the cause for all of America’s woes, and that they are doing so specifically to harm white people.
Therefore, those in positions of power, and institutions like Princeton, should be expected to be functioning parts of the resistance. It’s up to them to carry some of the burden borne by those targeted by Trump and the KKK. They must use their privilege, whether it be the political power they have in D.C., the influence they carry through their endowments, and much more, to help amplify disadvantaged voices. Influential individuals in the administration are actively taking part in and encouraging discrimination, so institutions like Princeton, if we are truly in the service of humanity, should counter the hateful remarks.
White silence is white support for the wrong side. If those in positions of historical privilege who have never been targeted by the U.S. and its policies do not stand up in the face of injustice, then they passively reap the fruits of the white supremacists' messages. Regardless of how it is looked at, the KKK’s rhetoric explicitly benefits all white people at the expense of all other minorities. So, if one who is white remains silent, then they give the hate groups a non-vocal stamp of approval.
To the entirety of the Princeton community, but specifically my fellow white students and peers: Trump’s policies will hurt some of us, like those of us who are economically disadvantaged, but not nearly as much as other minorities. We are not forced to walk amongst statues that glorify individuals who killed our ancestors. Employers do not look at us with preconceived notions. We are in a position of privilege — regardless of how we look at it — and remaining complicit at times like these only puts us in a position of support. This is not the time to take the central route. This is not the time to remain neutral. This is the time to unite against white supremacy.
I was incredibly pleased to see USG President Myesha Jemison stand in solidary with the University of Virginia’s students and publically support those who fight bigotry. Princeton has an incredibly problematic history, especially with trying to distance itself from politics, and I am delighted to see the head of the entire student body take a stand and not repeat the errors of the past. Unfortunately, though, and in an all-too-familiar manner for some students, the institutional leadership was silent. As of August 18, there has been no public condemnation of the events that unfolded in Charlottesville from President Eisgruber, the Board of Trustees, or any other leadership.
I am disgusted with the apolitical approach the University tries to take. This isn’t the time to remain in a state of “well, there’s nothing we can do” or “we don’t want to offend potential conservative students or donors.” The same thing happened with Trump’s election. The same thing happened when Trump dropped unprecedented amounts of bombs on several countries, and then threatened “fire and fury” to a country trying to avoid the fate of many others. The same thing happened when Trump passed legislation that gave ICE substantial power, and threatened to upheave programs like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which would affect some students at Princeton directly. The same thing happened when Trump banned individuals from Muslim-majority countries. Where is the resistance?
To my friends, professors, peers, graduate students, the Class of 2021, and the institutional leadership at Princeton: please do not remain complicit any longer. It’s the silence of good people that leads to the deaths of good people. As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Join an antifa group. Take a self-defense class. Show support for worker rights, black rights, trans rights, and all others. Realize that the struggle one of us faces is the struggle we all face. Spit in the face of racism, fascism, bigotry, white supremacy. Demand change.
It’s high time we show everyone what the resistance is actually about.
Mason Cox is a sophomore from Albany, Ore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.