Opinion | Susan Knopf: Exploring racism | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: Exploring racism

“F—— sand n—–.”

“Worthless s— skin.”

“I would love to see this lady raped, tortured and killed.”

That’s a sample of the emails Deeyah Khan says she received following an interview with the BBC. What did she say to so inflame white nationalists?

She said, “… the U.K. is never going to be white again. Similarly, our parents who have left Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Muslim countries, for them to think they can reestablish those countries and the lives they had there, over here, it’s not going to happen. … Together we have to … build a society that includes all of us.” Fair enough. But not if your vision of Europe or the U.S. or Colorado is white and is represented by a swastika or the Confederate flag.

Khan was curious what is the emotion, the feeling, that drives people to espouse hatred? So she went out to meet white nationalists, neo-Nazis, here in the U.S. You can see her award winning film, “White Right: Meeting the Enemy,” at 6:30 pm. Sunday, Sept. 15, at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge. The film is free, and donations are encouraged. After the film, the audience will break into small discussion groups. The program is the last in the Summer Sunday Film Series presented by the Summit Colorado Interfaith Council. The Rev. Frances McWilliams leads the program.

You can start the conversation early at the Frisco Historic Park Gazebo on Saturday, Sept. 14. Dances of Universal Peace will begin at 11 a.m. with Innana Hall of Breckenridge. Bring your picnic lunch and meet some new friends at The People’s Picnic.

These two programs are efforts by The Summit Interfaith Council to stem the tide of hate that has been in ascendency for the past two years. This hate isn’t out there, vaguely apart from our community. Swastikas were drawn and racial epithets scrawled around town after the 2016 election and again before the 2018 election. Right here in Summit County, we are struggling with racism, hate, objectification of the other.

Vitriolic responses to my column often appear, instead of thoughtful reasoned responses. I’m glad I’m hitting home runs, but it might be better if the other team didn’t boo so loudly. It’s great to comment; that’s our First Amendment right. Can we disagree? Can we agree to disagree? Can we have that conversation civilly without disrespecting, deprecating, marginalizing and objectifying one another?

Hating the other is at the core of the immigration issue. If the U.S. feels less white to you, you’re right. According to the Pew Research Center, immigrants now number more than 44 million, almost 14% of the U.S. population. In the 1960s, immigrants made up slightly more than 5% of the population and came mostly from Europe and Canada. Now Europeans and Canadians number about 13% of those immigrating. People immigrating from south and east Asia, South and Central America countries, and Mexico contribute about 25% each to the immigration total.

Indivisible is a new progressive political movement, unaffiliated with any political party. This is their Defund Hate Week.  They urge us to call our representatives 844-909-0232 and urge them to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. When you call the number, they inform you about how the president is using a backdoor grab, robbing other government agencies and programs, to pay for inhumane border enforcement. Then they connect you to your representative. Indivisible reports 2,700 voters called representatives to tell them to defund hate. We have an Indivisible group here in Summit County. Write me, and I’ll connect you.

In the film “White Right: Meeting the Enemy,” the process of objectifying, dehumanizing the other is explored. Filmmaker Khan takes us on a journey. We meet white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen. We explore their beliefs and their methods. We also meet former white nationalists who reveal themselves in a way I believe you have never experienced before.

While Khan does not draw a conclusion as to the source of the hatred, I think you will understand precisely the emotions and feelings that motivate people to join these movements. You may or may not be surprised. Either way, I feel sure you will feel you have been on an amazing journey, well worth your time.

If you want to continue the journey, I recommend Jodi Piccoult’s best selling 2016 novel “Small Great Things,” inspired by real events.

Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf has worn many hats in her career, including working as an award-winning journalist and certified ski instructor. She moved to Silverthorne in 2013 after vacationing in Summit County since the 1970s. Contact her at sdnknopf@gmail.com.

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