A national officer of the United Church of Christ — in Charlottesville alongside a faith contingent offering an alternative message to the hate-filled rhetoric of white nationalists — is issuing a call for people of faith to confront white supremacy, to hoist a nation out of its "moral and political crisis."
"We must react to these violently demonstrable assaults on the moral fiber of our nation," said the Rev. Traci Blackmon, the executive minister of UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries. "But, beyond reacting, we must also respond. We must be focused, strategic, and proactive in our engagement with this administration."
Blackmon was among hundreds of clergy who gathered in Charlottesville as a non-violent presence to confront white supremacy groups that were rallying in that university community on Aug. 11-12. Dozens were injured in clashes, and a local woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when she was struck by a car driven by a Nazi sympathizer. Blackmon called out Donald Trump on MSNBC this week when he suggested that white nationalists were quietly marching on Friday, when Blackmon and other people of faith were confronted by a chanting, torch-wielding crowd as they tried to leave a crowded worship service.
In an op-ed in the St. Louis American, Blackmon said she "recognized this moment, not as an escalation of white supremacy in this nation, but rather as its death rattle. And I know that the dying breaths of white supremacy will be long and arduous and violent. I know that there will be casualties on all sides."
"We are witnessing the last fledgling breaths of a false racial construct whose time has come to an end, and although the death will be long and tortuous for everyone, death will ultimately come," she said.
Blackmon believes that the strategy for anti-racists must be both responsive and proactive to legislative actions crafted by nationalist-minded groups, such as opposing immigration efforts like the RAISE Act and defending DACA, demanding restoration of the Voting Rights Act, demanding comprehensive immigration reform, and denouncing white supremacy at every turn.
"We must call upon every political representative — on local, state and federal levels — to publicly denounce white supremacy, not just with statements but with instituted policies," Blackmon said.
"We must organize and mobilize the masses in every election, sending a clear message to incumbents that either they will vote in the best interest of the people or we will vote against them," she said.
Blackmon also wants people of faith to challenge the construction of border walls and de-stabilizing rhetoric, re-engage with the Paris Climate Agreement, and lay out expectations for a morally-grounded budget that doesn't lean heavy on militarization — all directions that the current administration has followed in seven months.
"This president refuses to denounce white supremacy and has made it clear that his administration does not represent all Americans," Blackmon said. "We must respond by showing him, and all who desire to serve this country, that we, the people, are one."