In case you haven’t figured it out for yourself, yet, I’m a bit of an activist.
As such, some of my friends will occasionally call my attention to something for the express purpose of getting me involved. Sometimes, they simply want me to join an online debate, and be the shark that sniffs blood in the water and goes in for the kill. Other times, they’ll ask me to write about something in particular, be it a general topic that they feel needs more attention, or (as in this case) a personal situation that is emblematic of a larger, pervasive problem.
A good friend of mine recently replied to a pretty ugly meme posted by an old acquaintance of hers. This particular meme showed three women from behind, walking away from the camera wearing pistols openly carried on their hips. Other than the fact that two of them were wearing their holsters in such a way that they’d be hard-pressed to draw the weapon cleanly in a high-stress situation, the picture didn’t bother me. Okay, let me clarify – in a broad sense, I have no issue with the idea of private firearm ownership. I have several myself, and have been trained in the proficient use of firearms.
I have huge problems, however, with both the resistance to reasonable gun-control measures, and with the fear-based fetishistic culture that surrounds the whole issue of firearms in our country. People are told to be afraid of the boogeyman lurking behind every door, and convinced that having a gun (or many, many guns) is the only way to be “safe.” For the moment, we’ll suspend the entire discussion about how gun ownership raises the statistical chances of both being injured and being killed by gunshot. We’ll also put aside the Second Amendment arguments; these deserve their own day of discussion. Guns tend to make small people feel big.
What bothered me – and my friend – about this meme was simply the caption. The picture of the three presumably attractive white women in tight jeans and semi-automatic pistols was crowned with the words:
“3 WOMEN WHO WON’T BE GETTING RAPED BY SYRIAN REFUGEES”
Trying to unpack all that is wrong with this meme would take a helluva long time, so I’ll be brief. –ish. Yes, I know that “Syrian” is not a race, but let us not mince words and try to pedantically distort the intended message, here. The author of the meme quite plainly was being both racist and xenophobic, implying that hordes of savage brown men would be threatening to rape “our” women, in their spare time between covert ISIS meetings.
The Alt-White’s current obsession with Syrian refugees is pretty ludicrous, to say the least. The very least. Trumplestiltskin’s campaign mantra about “extreme vetting” shows a complete lack of understanding about the entire refugee relocation process, for starters. Ask the average Trump supporter what the process consists of, and you will usually get something outlandishly inaccurate.
Those granted refugee status by the United Nations rarely have any say regarding which country they get to go. Less than 1% of those who apply for it are granted refugee status, and the long, arduous process makes it far more difficult to enter the United States as a refugee than simply applying for a tourist or work visa. This process includes everything from (but not limited to) ongoing international investigation, fingerprint checking, repeated interviews, and even cultural assimilation classes. If they make it through the whole ordeal, they must still apply for a green card after arriving, and are expected to work and earn their way in our society.
The United States is one of 144 nations who have agreed to abide by the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951; this isn’t anything new, people. We agreed that’d we’d be decent human beings and help those whose lives were at risk due to various factors endangering them in their homelands. Y’know, actually following through with the lofty ideals that self-righteous Christians love to proclaim, while usually practicing quite the opposite. Pardon me, that’s the atheist slipping out!
At any rate, that horrid, racist meme pre-supposes that the Syrian refugees coming to America are to be categorized in the same way that Donald Trump referred to Mexican immigrants in one of his many campaign faux pas moments. More brown people coming to take your jobs, get on welfare, kill you for drugs or religion, and (GASP!), steal and rape the white women! The brown people who, as all of you Alt-White citizens well know, are responsible for all the crime and violence here in America. Right?
The woman (I won’t say “lady”) who posted this repugnant trash was immediately called out on the vileness of the meme by my friend, whose father was a refugee in the Middle East not so many years ago. This “nasty woman” (you see what I did there?) offered a thinly veiled condescending statement in place of an apology or admission of guilt. She didn’t mean “the good ones,” of course. We all know, she asserts, that the overarching point was accurate, whether it referred to Syrian or any other flavor of (brown) immigrant.
It got even better when one of that woman’s friends jumped into the conversation to start caps-lock shouting about “TRUMP” and how he was going to straighten things out. Together, their ongoing dialog hammered home the point of this story: People like this flatly refuse to acknowledge their overt racism.
The Alt-White is often in a state of denial, at least the ones who are even passingly concerned with being functional and empathetic humans. As I’ve stated elsewhere, the Obama presidency has revealed the ongoing existence of pervasive racism in the United States, and the Trump campaign and looming presidency has now made it socially acceptable once again. We all see the overtly racist rhetoric, hate crimes, discrimination, and outright hate speech that surrounds us. The Alt-Right’s denizens are feeling empowered by Trump’s victory, and are experiencing their own “coming out,” so to speak. It is regrettably common for me to now see the words “I’m not a racist, but…” that unfailingly precede a clearly racist comment.
We’ve regressed past the days where polite society wouldn’t stand for this sort of talk without calling it out and roundly condemning it as despicable. The woman who posted and defended both that meme and her own characterization of it is simply another symptom of where we are at. She’s the human skin sore, erupting in plain sight as confirmation of the sickness that lies beneath. If we don’t continue to oppose the Alt-White’s awful, racist behavior wherever we see it, the disease spreads unchecked.
We are the only medicine for it.