The last two weeks have been difficult for many, as we have witnessed extremist, white supremacist attacks on our citizens and our basic values. The rise of extremist, domestic terrorism in our country requires a clear naming and understanding of the evils that we face. These are not new evils, they are the darker side of our Republic, rearing their heads across our history, and requiring new generations to respond. It is our time, and much is required of us. Tomorrow, the specific action that is required is to vote for those who will actively oppose the extremist, white supremacist ideology that drove this week’s domestic terrorism.
Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, African American citizens, were killed at a grocery store in Kentucky by a white supremacist, domestic terrorist who had tried to enter a nearby African American church. Clearly, he hoped to inflict the level of carnage we were to see at another house of worship, The Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA, where eleven worshipers were gunned down. In that terrorist attack, a white supremacist targeted this specific Jewish congregation because of their faith, and also because of their support for refugees of all faiths seeking refuge in our country. Between these two attacks, the FBI caught the domestic terrorist who had attempted the largest political assassination plot in our country’s history, seeking to kill at least 15 politicians and political activists who support left-of-center causes, including two former Presidents, and several serving lawmakers.
It is time to consistently use the language of terrorism, and in some cases, of treason, to describe these attacks. Extreme neo-nazi and white supremacist citizens, who advocate, support or choose violence, are indeed terrorists and traitors. They actively seek to overthrow our democracy, and hope for something quite different in its place. Not all of our aspiring and serving lawmakers are willing to stand up to the dangerous rhetoric that accompanies this movement.
It is time for all patriotic Americans to make a choice about the country we wish to live in. A choice about the values of religious diversity that were clear to our founding leaders. A choice about the strengths that immigrant communities have always brought to our country. A choice about the commitment to racial justice that characterizes the country we aspire to be.
I am always so grateful to be a social worker in times such as these, because we are a community that chooses justice, inclusion, and action. Vote your values, and pay attention to the political realities in our country. Vote for those you are certain will actively oppose neo-nazi, white supremacist, domestic terrorism. It really is that simple; there is no room for equivocation. Surely the recent sacrifice of our citizens tells us that.
Cathryn C. Potter
Dean and Distinguished Professor
Rutgers School of Social Work