Last week, ex-Breitbart News editor and self-proclaimed alt-righter Milo Yiannopoulos leaked audio featuring neo-Nazi and white supremacist Richard Spencer after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017.
In the audio, Spencer spews a litany of racial and anti-Semitic slurs and proudly says his ancestors enslaved and ruled over Jewish and Black people. “That’s how the world f**king works,” he says. “I rule the f**king world. Those pieces of sh*t get ruled by people like me.”
While his hate speech is undeniably shocking and terrible, it is not unusual to think something similar could ever happen in our own communities. In fact, we have seen multiple incidents of racially motivated hate crimes targeting Black, Latinx, and Jewish students that involved slurs and hate symbols in graffiti on campus in recent years.
Part of the issue when it comes to addressing racism and other forms of bias is the tendency to think they are so far removed from our lives and cannot have any immediate impact on us.
In fact, Spencer was born in Boston and, throughout his life, lived in large, diverse cities all over the United States. Racism and bigotry are not contained within certain spheres and ideologies, nor are they specific to certain political parties – they are wildly pervasive in every region of this nation, which was founded on an ideology of white supremacy.
Furthermore, the more racially privileged you are, the less often you think about race and racism and how they affect you.
Non-white people in this country do not have the luxury of simply forgetting they are racial minorities and discriminated against because of their identities.
Every day of their lives, people of color and other marginalized minorities receive the brunt of the horrors posed by the threats of racism and white supremacy.
In the three full years since Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, we’ve undoubtedly seen an increase in incidents of outright and violent racial hatred in all its manifestations.
The fact so many bigots became immediately emboldened following Trump’s election is not only concerning on the community level, but also provides evidence of the insidiousness of white supremacy and racial hierarchies that plague our nation.
These are not isolated incidents – rather, they speak to a larger epidemic from which our country suffers.
Our nation was not – and still is not – immune to racial hatred and bias. The past couple of years should serve as stark reminders to ourselves that we should not be exempt from duly and routinely examining and questioning our attitudes toward race and racism.
It should alarm us whenever we are made aware of the fact we harbor racist sentiments within ourselves or are confronted by racially biased comments from our own families and friends.
It should offend and disgust us to our cores to see unabashed racism and bigotry.
We must continue to foster environments around the country in which we can talk freely about race and educate people on their implicit biases and prejudices they might have internalized throughout their lives.
We cannot become desensitized to racial bias and accept inequality and hatred as societal norms.
We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent in the face of relative peace and quiet, or content with only the bare minimum progress we make toward achieving race-equal communities.
Spencer might only be one person, but he still has followers, whether they are marching alongside him with torches and pitchforks through the streets of Charlottesville, or acting as keyboard warriors and spreading white supremacist rhetoric online behind the safety of a screen.
We can never underestimate or minimize the impact of one individual, but we can also use this idea to our advantage. Every single person on this campus has the ability to call out racial bias for what it is and stop it in its tracks whenever they see or hear it from their immediate circles.
The FSU community can contribute to the fight against bigotry every day, wherever it may be. Racism is a difficult subject to broach, but we have to get over the discomfort and apprehension in order to achieve the progress we want to see.