I haven’t posted here in a while, mainly because I’ve been focusing my writing energies on finishing and editing a novel (ugh it is HARD, WHY IS WRITING HARD?), and also because, frankly, it seems like the fun, summery topics I would have liked to feature were all trivial in the grand scheme of the seemingly endless American and global tragedies of the last month or so, particularly the killing of yet two more black men by police last week in LA and MN, and then the massacre in Dallas. Basically, every time I thought about posting something, it seemed futile and dumb and silly. Especially this last week, when, as a white girl living in San Francisco, one of the most liberal places in the US and possibly the world, I felt like a lot of this was more removed than it would have been had I lived in, say, Mississippi or Georgia or even outside of San Francisco proper.
Today, however, a woman who lives one block away from me in the Haight neighborhood found this flier at her door around 12:30 pm (see article here; I also saw this woman’s post via NextDoor):
Based on the rather sad grammar and composition of the flier and the original post from my neighbor, I’m pretty sure it’s genuine, which means that someone or some persons are undertaking to recruit, albeit rather pathetically, for the KKK–on Haight Street, of all places, which is hippie central if you ever saw it. Of course, the likelihood of this person(s) having any success in gaining converts is pretty freakin’ low, given the population here, which, while overwhelmingly white, is also overwhelmingly socially liberal (it’s not uncommon to see #BlackLivesMatter posters and shirts on black AND white people’s homes and bodies around here). Obviously, the entire area is openly disgusted with this flier, regardless of whether it is truly authentic or a bad, sick joke.
That being said, seeing this prompted two very different emotional reactions, the second of which generated this lovely post you’re reading now:
Initial Reaction: This is happening here? How dare they? It’s awful to think that there is someone who, if not living in my neighborhood, is spending time here in order to spread a message of hate and racism and try to recruit my neighbors into what is basically America’s #1 Lynching and Cross-Burning Club. My neighborhood, in my adopted city–how dare this monster, whoever he or she is, come into MY street and spew this shit! I was really riled up.
Secondary Reaction: Oh my God, I have so much privilege. Once this news started spreading via social media, I spoke about it with a black friend who also lives in the Haight, and has lived here longer than I have. I was bowled over when I heard this friend’s initial reaction, which was not one of disgust, as mine was, but of fear for their physical safety. This person takes a bus to work which drops off, sometimes late at night, a couple blocks from where this flier was found. Unlike me, their first thought was not, “What an asshole racist; I can’t believe someone would do this!” Their first thought was, “There’s possibly an asshole racist loitering nearby; what if they get violent?”
That’s the question we never really have to ask ourselves when it comes to racists, isn’t it, fellow white people?
What if they get violent?
I saw the picture of that flier and became angry because I couldn’t believe this was happening in my neighborhood.
My black friend saw the picture of that flier and became frightened because they didn’t feel physically safe in their neighborhood.
What a giant reminder of my own privilege, huh?
So why am I writing this? I guess to offer another rebuttal to the “All Lives Matter” crowd in general, who are super loud right now: to at least to one dick racist KKK member in the Haight, all lives definitely don’t matter. But I also write to remind myself and any other white people living in so-called liberal enclaves that our homes are not exempt from the reality of racism and violence. We need to speak out and be strong, vigilant allies to our non-white neighbors and friends and family members. The site of the Summer of Love, with its graffiti murals and overpriced vegan burgers, can be just as dangerous a place for a non-white person as Ferguson, Missouri. We can’t get complacent. We can’t sit on our asses. The system is set up to benefit us, to keep us safe, no matter where we are–and that means it’s our responsibility to change that system so it keeps EVERYONE safe. We can’t ever forget that responsibility, vegan burgers or no.
If you can, consider donating to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund– you can donate to support police reform in particular.