Yesterday was a very emotional day for me.
A white supremacist was visiting my alma mater. I didn’t know much about who he is, all I knew was that he was one of the organizers for the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and that he believed in everything I didn’t.
As a fellow Florida Gator, I was excited yet afraid of what would happen when a white supremacist came to our campus to “recruit” people. Richard Spencer is a man who was not invited to campus, and instead, invited himself to talk on his soapbox by renting out the whole Phillips Center Auditorium. I was excited because I wanted to be there protesting with my community, and defend the peace that Spencer swears he isn’t corrupting.
But I was afraid that it would have escalated to something bigger than a peaceful protest, and although it wasn’t violent—it was far from peaceful, and on both ends.
I stayed tuned on several online newspapers as many were doing live updates. As time got closer to Spencer taking the stage, I would refresh, refresh and refresh my browser, but nothing. My anxiety was making the best of me. I would read that the protests had started and that there was heavy security making sure that no one gets too wild. Once time came for Spencer to take the stage, I was wondering why there wasn’t any live footage of what was happening on stage. Why was I waiting for these news outlets to tell me what was happening inside, when I was sure I can find out myself? I searched on Snapchat stories and sure enough, those who were able to get in were posting it. I later found a source on YouTube that was live streaming the whole thing.
The first thing I noticed is the first two center rows of the auditorium. The seats were filled with these young men in white shirts and similar haircuts. Clearly those were the few that supported the white supremacist.
As Spencer took the stage, you can tell that he was pissed with how empty the auditorium was of followers and how full it was of people chanting, “Black lives matter,” and “Fuck you, Spencer!” For the next half hour, Spencer couldn’t even start his speech. During this time, he would say things like, “You know what I’m saying is going to change the world” and “We are stronger than you and you know it.” He would continue to say things like, “Are you children not ready to listen to mature ideas?” and refused to leave the stage.
Now mind you, I don’t get where this guy gets his “bros” from. He demands respect from the audience, but then you have people like, Spencer’s organizer Cameron Padgett yelling, “Y’all aren’t tolerant. Y’all aren’t anything! Y’all are full of shit! You all are acting like animals and the communist antifa that you are.” And that’s when the real shit show started.
There were many people who genuinely wanted to know what he thought and why he thought it was so amazing, and it seemed like people just couldn’t understand him. Others just didn’t even want to listen to what he had to say.
Spencer decided that if he won’t speak, that he would do a Q&A. You had a few people say stupid shit like, “what are you still doing here?” and “how did it feel to get punched in the face?” One person actually asked the first two rows to turn around so he can flick them off.
Spencer would either deviate from a question and refer to his previous speeches, but when he did respond, it was with real belief that he thought what he said was true.
As I’m watching this, I’m disheartened because nothing was getting done. Spencer wouldn’t stop insulting the protesters, and the protesters didn’t stop insulting him. I was actually getting tired of listening to them fight, because this was just such a waste of energy. I’ve heard multiple sides on this.
1: “We don’t want Nazi’s on campus, so we won’t let him speak.”
2.: “Yes, it’s his first amendment right to talk, but not on our campus.”
3: “He wants to wipe out everyone that isn’t white, he shouldn’t be here.”
4: “Just ignore him, he won’t win.”
5: “Maybe if we listen to him, and show him respect, he’ll respect us.”
6: “He already disrespected me and my immigrant parents, we have to fight him.”
7: “If he doesn’t like diversity in America, he should leave.”
The list can literally go on.
To me, there isn’t really such thing as right or wrong, because what is right to you may be wrong to me. But, what I understood from this event, was that Richard Spencer is just a white dude with a microphone, and that he is no different than that friend who has a god-complex and that you love him/her because he/she is so confident in her beliefs. He is no different than me, in the sense that I believe that I will create my own platform to talk about MY IDEAS and if people choose to listen, they can and can’t if they choose to (even though he is much more forceful). He is no different than any other leader, because he is just a person with a heavy following of people who think like him.
Ironically, he is a white male, like Charles Manson who was cult leader, and David Koresh who created his own apocalypse and had people follow him because he claimed to be the new prophet, and married a 13-year-old and raped a 10-year-old. This is still happening today, where you have people who build so much confidence in their ideas, and create a following, and are low-key doing nasty things, and it takes YEARS for shit to get done. Leaders of child sex trafficking, leaders of drug trade, leaders of genocide—all of this happens in the United States. These leaders can be our congressman/congresswoman, our neighbors, they are everywhere, the only thing is that they don’t want to be known, because they know they will lose everything if they are made public.
What appears to me is that we just hate when people are so public about their negative ideologies. Why? Because for example, while Obama was in office, there were still people protesting that America is “white,” and showing demonstrations of Obama being lynched, people didn’t agree with Obama. And if you really want to take it back, the Romans persecuted Christians for a period of over two centuries, because they believed that Christians were a threat and that was in the name of God!
This isn’t new, and I strongly believe that we are stronger now than ever. Yes, Germany also thought their genocide would never happen, and I’m afraid that it could happen because nothing is certain. But I refuse to believe that our fears will get in the way of our power for peace. And by disrespecting each other, nothing will improve.
NOW HEAR ME OUT: We are no different than Spencer by telling him that what he thinks is wrong. There are standards that we all set for the kind of people we want to associate ourselves with. You won’t give a dollar to that homeless person because you think he’ll only use it on drugs or alcohol. You won’t look twice at someone who is too skinny, or too fat. You won’t talk to those who preach their ideas in public, because they don’t think like you. I have come across people who don’t hang out with ugly people, like, what does that even mean?
What makes you better than someone who doesn’t have a degree? What makes you better than someone who has to work three jobs to support their family? What makes you better than the person who has mental health? What makes you better than the person who is black, brown, blue, purple? What makes you better than the person who doesn’t want to fuck you? NOTHING.
We all have different backgrounds, and all bleed the same fucking way. This mentality that we have about who is right, and who is wrong has to stop. We will never improve our society if we don’t learn how to listen and come to our own conclusions. Having an open mind isn’t about accepting everything, but it’s about acknowledging what’s around you.
I ask myself about what I would have asked Richard Spencer, and I know I would have asked him where his clothes came from, because I’m sure as shit, that a white person didn’t do it. I would have asked him what he ate that day, because I know he isn’t eating southern food all the time made from a white person. I would have asked him what kind of car he drives, because even if it was an American car, America is built from a diverse group of people—WORKING PEOPLE. An American is not white. An American is me, a Guatemalan-American. An American is you, a beautiful person who should never feel afraid of anyone else who is physically different than you, or who thinks differently than you.
I know I put several ideas in this lengthy post, but I am not afraid of this guy and I hope you aren’t either. I hope that we can come together as a society—white, black, brown, gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, and any other identity factors.
I want to encourage you to talk to someone who you know thinks differently than you, and to really listen to them and have them hear you out too. You don’t have to agree with them, but as I know we all do, we just want to be heard.
And again, you don’t have to listen if you don’t want to, but then don’t get mad when someone doesn’t listen to you.