Dialogue with Nazis?
For the past few days, pro-life activists have been hotly – sometimes very hotly – debating how best to deal with white supremacists and ethno-nationalists in their circles. Some deny that the racism is even a real issue. Others advocate maintaining connections and keeping dialogue open.
And usually, I would say “dialogue? hell yeah!” But history and experience show that it is difficult to dialogue with avowed racists. Moreover, there is a disturbing trend in more conservative circles for people who say “I’m dialoguing with her” actually to mean “I’m tolerating her racism because it doesn’t really affect me.”
Some may feel uncomfortable with confrontation, and I can sympathize with that. But the reality is that people who get shy about confronting avowed racists often seem to have no issues with being aggressive on other fronts – such as, for instance, calling out sexual transgressors. And some seem more concerned with tone-policing anti-racist activists, than in policing for racism in their own circles.
I guess there’s a safety issue here, of course. White supremacists tend to go more quickly for the death threats than do your average garden variety pacifist SJW. But that means letting the violent call the shots.
So if you say you’re going to dialogue, then do it. Don’t just linger, giving tacit acceptance through your silence. White allies, especially, have an obligation here, because if dialogue will do any good, the burden of this should not fall upon the very people whom the racists are attacking. It’s not the job of Black women to take on conservative pro-lifers who think they are racially inferior. Nor is it the job of Jewish women to take on Holocaust deniers.
Racism must be confronted. White supremacy must be called out. There is no room for toleration here. Yes, the issue is not the particular racist person – it’s the vile ideology itself. But that doesn’t mean that we give a pass to people who are overtly promoting violence. That’s not what tolerance, or co-existence mean. And it’s certainly not what Christian charity means.
What else can we do, though?
I think there’s actually a lot to be done. And it’s not just a matter of raging against the dark: many candles await our lighting.
In months to come, the New Pro Life Movement is going to make combating racism a top priority. But the number one thing you can do, whether or not you feel up to engaging directly with white supremacists yourself, is to carry out a corporal work of mercy or act of social justice by giving direct support to individuals and organizations that situate pro-life within a racial justice context. Especially, support and promote Black women. We need to let them take the lead in these conversations, but also be aware that culturally, intersectionally, Black women are often the least compensated for their work, and the most put-upon to offer free labor.
This wasn’t something that had occurred to me until very recently, until it was brought to my attention that a Black woman who is a brilliant activist on pro-life and racial justice issues was doing it all for free. That all over the nation, social justice activists of color are doing it for free – on the front lines.
And having people of color do stuff for free has a pretty nasty implication, in our cultural history.
Give Financial Support
I want to talk more in the future about what we can do as activists and allies, on this pressing issue. But for now – consider supporting the work of pro-life and social justice activists of color. Give them the space to speak, and the chance to lead – and give them the financial support so they can do this without exhausting themselves fighting battles they should never have to face. The pro-life movement in America has a habit of tokenizing Black women – and Black communities – but not letting them take center stage. This has to stop.
One activist whose work I strongly recommend, Cessilye R. Smith, founded Abide Women’s Health Services while homeschooling three children and campaigning to educate communities on issues of racial justice and consistent life ethic. She’s a doula working in Texas, offering her support to the most vulnerable of women. Her organization “exists to improve birth outcomes in communities with the lowest quality of care.” They do this by “offering healthcare and complimentary services that are easily accessible, holistic, evidence based and free from judgement.” Besides her direct work with the women who have been overlooked by the system, Ms. Smith educates pro-life activists on the reality of race issues as they intersect with life issues, deconstructing the dog-whistle theses about Black communities that are all too common in many pro-life circles.
I heard her speak last fall at the Rehumanize International conference in Pittsburgh, and it was eye-opening for me. But shouldn’t we be grateful, when our eyes are opened?
Consider supporting Ms. Smith’s work, if you’re serious about combatting racial injustice and improving outcomes for women and babies. You can support Abide via Paypal – https://www.paypal.me/abidewomen – or give directly to Ms. Smith at