Intolerant of Intolerance in Ward 6

Councilmember Charles Allen talks with an employer during the April 2017 Job Fairs Program. Photo: Office of Ward 6 Councilmember

A man with a swastika tattoo yells the “N” word to a black city worker. An LGBTQ Pride flag is burned while hanging on a front porch. Fliers with hate-filled and derogatory language targeting people of Jewish faith, African-Americans, and other minority groups are left on cars and windshields in multiple neighborhoods.

No, these aren’t recent events that took place in far-off places. Unfortunately, each of these events has occurred in our very own community in the two weeks since the hate and violence on display in Charlottesville, Virginia.

What happened in Charlottesville was downright shocking for even the most cynical of us. Nazi and Confederate flags flew side-by-side with swastikas and torches proudly on display – and a President enabled further hatred by refusing to condemn these individuals outright and without equivocation. The lack of national leadership at moments like this only serves to heighten the importance of our individual responses. In that moral failing, the battle against hatred and bigotry rests with each of us to ensure that these acts cannot and should not become normalized.

People shake their heads and ask “How can this happen here in 2017?” Sadly, hate is alive and well. But we can – and must – defeat it. Not only should we make that hate unwelcome and uncomfortable in our community, but we must work collectively to stamp it out, eradicate it, and never let it draw breath.

I think about these times we face not as a moment we choose, but one that chooses us. I believe that we set a high standard for ourselves and our neighbors. And I know that we are resilient in the face of that which confronts our collective values.

That’s why I love living and serving in my home of Washington, DC and specifically Ward 6. Better than most places in the world, our neighborhoods foster a welcoming environment where diversity is cherished.

Are we perfect? Of course not – I dedicate each day to improving our community for everyone.

In the end, our community, our nation, and our planet face serious and urgent challenges. I don’t believe there is any room to entertain or tolerate hateful white supremacy and neo-nazism. We have come too far on the shoulders of brave men and women who sacrificed and fought and risked everything to create this community.

The way Shawna Dinger responded to her burned Pride flag was so powerful. She simply hung it higher – and left a note saying “To whoever tore down and burned my gay pride flag: I hung it up a little higher and prouder than before. It was a little low.”

I urge all residents to stand up and speak out without fear. As your Councilmember, I will do all I can and my door is open if you need me. But in the end, our community has to reject these notions over and over again – and I am certain we will. The symbols and language of hate have no place in our community. When some leaders have lacked the courage to openly denounce hatred, it falls to each of us to do so. I encourage all of us to speak up and reject symbols of hatred and bigotry wherever and whenever they appear. We cannot allow these symbols, these words, and these acts to become normal.