When Racism Becomes Terrorism

While everyone is talking about the events in Charlottesville this weekend, I’m sitting at home picking my jaw up off the floor.

I didn’t need to read a single headline to recognize what I saw in those photos. The events in Charlottesville is and was an act of terrorism.

Terrorism on fellow Americans. On American soil. Conducted by other Americans.

In the morning I texted my close friend in Virginia asking “How you holding up?”.

I didn’t need to explain what I meant by this because he knew. Because he’s a black man, an immigrant, and a hard working public servant doing what those white supremacists in Virginia are fighting against, which is making progress for every American.

Maybe you’re wondering why I’m talking about a current event on a fitness blog. Why a Brazilian immigrant turned U.S. citizen is making space on a fitness page about the events that affect black people. Or brown people. Or [insert whatever the hell you want] people.

To be honest, I asked myself those questions all day. Why would I talk about racism or terrorism on a fitness page when I have yet to build my business? When I’m in the middle of creating my first product and getting ready for a launch? Can I truly risk it all by talking about Charlottesville? Is it too political?

The answer is: I can’t afford NOT to talk about Charlottesville, racism, or terrorism because as a minority businesswoman, as a woman that endured years of discrimination and racism for being Latina in white-dominant schools, towns and neighborhoods I am confident about one thing: Racism is a threat to our humanity and survival as a species.

Racism is a learned behavior

Racism gets a slap on the wrist when a schoolteacher looks the other way at a cafeteria separated by ethnicity and skin color. Racism gets a silent approval when college undergrads in a Irish-Catholic private college in the middle of New York City ignore, humiliate and make fun of fellow brown and black-skinned “commuter” students without consequence (i.e., New Yorkers who don’t live on campus but commute to the same private college). Racism gets a green light when history teachers skim over the Civil Rights era and assures students that racism is a thing of the past so no need to worry.

Well, it isn’t. Racism is like a stain on our living room rug, but instead of wiping it out or throwing the rug away, we just rearrange the furniture to make it less noticeable.

A part of me feels unfit to discuss racism. How can my experiences ever come close to the horrors that my black friends have experienced? How can I talk about white privilege when I’m neither white nor privileged? Where do I belong in this conversation?

And that’s the point. There is no “belonging” in dismantling racism because ultimately, we are all responsible in our own ways. When we allow racism to fester and go on with nothing but a slap on the wrist (or worse, we ignore it altogether and pretend it’s not there), we clear the path for domestic terrorism to unfold. And that is exactly what happened in Charlottesville this weekend.

So I thought this through. I’ve considered it from several angles and here’s what I came up with:

I’m no longer interested in hearing that we’re grouping lots of innocent white people together with a bunch of bad, bad Nazis. The mere fact that one is white and a decent person doesn’t make him or her unaccountable for what unfolded in VA. SILENCE MAKES YOU ACCOUNTABLE.

I’m no longer interested in hearing that I don’t have a say in the matter because I’m not black or because I don’t live in the South. IGNORANCE MAKES YOU ACCOUNTABLE.

I have no time for friends or family that say “Oh yea, so terrible what’s going on over there,” and then proceed to change the subject to irrelevant topics like brunch or boyfriends. IGNORING RACISM AND VIOLENCE DOESN’T MAKE RACISM DISAPPEAR.

I can’t support another news media outlet that posts a picture of a black man on TV and labels him a criminal but pussyfoots around posting a mugshot of a male, white supremacist because heck, he’s just a regular guy who attends church each Sunday morning, maybe he didn’t mean it! He doesn’t look  like a criminal/racist/terrorist. YOUR HESITATION IS WHITE PRIVILEGE. 

I have zero interest in building an online business or a brand that sits afraid and in silence about the blatant terrorism going on in her adopted country just because I’m in “fitness and I should be careful about customers getting upset”. I SUPPORT PEOPLE OF ALL RACES, COLORS, RELIGION, SEXUAL ORIENTATION. And I don’t need anyone’s permission to voice this truth.

When I look at the events of the past year, not just this weekend, I wonder “Was leaving my birth country worthwhile? Did my family risk their lives, careers and dignity to raise their children in a country that turns a blind eye to racism? Did we truly sacrifice everything to be citizens of a country that seems confused about where to stand and what to say about what’s happening in our society? Did this country truly forget that we fought two freaking wars to dismantle bigotry? Is this the country I celebrated in July for giving people like me freedom, liberty and justice?”

Charlottesville is not a reflection of the country I have come to love. Standing in the sidelines, ignoring the racist remarks from friends, family or co-workers is no longer a matter of being polite. Standing in the sidelines makes us a part of the problem. WE are collectively spreading the flames of racism and terrorism in our own country by looking the other way.

This is not a matter for Facebook status updates/arguments and 140-character tweets. Racism is not a fucking social media experiment.

As the founder of Barbell Pilates, a minority, a woman, and an American – a privilege that was EARNED, not given- I will not stay silent on this matter. I refuse to stay quiet about what’s happening in this country, even if it means losing readers or customers who disagree. This isn’t a matter of political opinion. It’s a fact. And the fact is that in 2017, America isn’t just a racist country, we are a country that supports and clears the path for domestic terrorism to thrive.

But will we stand there and let them win?

What can you do?

Take a stand. Instead of brushing your friends’ or family’s racist comments aside, say something. Call them out. Have an intelligent discussion around bigotry, hate, discrimination and racism, not an argument. You don’t have to go to a march, or buy a T-shirt or share your views on social media. Racism starts at home. We feed the monster. Starve that mofo, but don’t let it take over and destroy what this country has fought so hard for.

When we allow racism to fester, we eventually make room for terrorism. We become accountable for its place in our daily lives, our newsfeed, even in a faraway place in VA. Don’t let racism win.

Barbell Pilates will continue to serve its mission in helping women (and men) achieve optimal athleticism and movement via strength training and Pilates. We will continue to put out valuable information that allows you to achieve greater levels of fitness and allows you to enjoy your active lifestyle anywhere, anytime without fear or threats.

Stand for something.

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