Editor’s Note: Brandy Brooks along with At-Large candidates Hoan Dang, Danielle Meitiv, and Chris Wilhelm, and District 20 state delegate candidate Lorig Charkoudian held a press conference on Wednesday, August 15 at Crossroads Farmers Market in response to the violent rhetoric of white supremacists and lack of leadership by the current president to condemn and end the rise of violence and hate in America.
Good afternoon. My name is Brandy Brooks, and I’m a candidate for Montgomery County Council At-Large. I’m joined by Hoan Dang, Danielle Meitiv, and Chris Wilhelm, also candidates for County Council At-Large, as well as Lorig Charkoudian, candidate for State Delegate in District 20.
Three days ago, Heather Heyer was murdered and 19 other people were injured when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of protesters who were boldly standing against a racist demonstration in Charlottesville, VA.
The current occupant of the White House wants you to believe that this was the unfortunate result of “violence on many sides.” But we want to be crystal clear: white supremacists who believe in removing everyone from our nation who doesn’t match their bigoted worldview marched in Charlottesville to defend a symbol of enslavement. Their actions and language incited one of their members to assault and murder, which they then celebrated on their social and media networks.
We have gathered together as candidates for office in Montgomery County to call out this violent, murderous hate for what it is: a complete violation of the values of truth, freedom, and democracy.
We have gathered together as candidates for office in Montgomery County to call out this violent, murderous hate for what it is: a complete violation of the values of truth, freedom, and democracy. And we call out Donald Trump for encouraging violent speech and violent action throughout his campaign; for deliberately appealing to racism, white nationalism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and misogyny in his campaign and in office; and for putting white supremacists like Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and Neil Gorsuch into positions of power in our government.
But it is far too easy to direct our attention to Washington without looking around us here in Montgomery County. We have seen a rise in hate crimes in the County over the past year. Within our communities, some residents emboldened by Trump and his followers have chosen to act out their racist worldview in public. Students in our schools have been subjected to vicious and hateful language from their peers. Local churches have been graffitied with words like “Trump Nation. Whites Only.” Yet these are not new issues in our County: 50 years ago, I wouldn’t have been allowed to walk through Chevy Chase after dark. And today, despite our identity as a politically progressive county, we are still starkly divided by race and class.
White supremacy is here in Montgomery County, not just in Charlottesville or Washington. And as candidates for office, we are here to stand against every way that white supremacy is upheld in our County.
When we define wealthy, white neighborhoods and schools as “good” and neighborhoods and schools with a majority of poor people of color as “bad,” this is white supremacy.
When our black and brown young people are directed into the juvenile and criminal justice system instead of receiving the education they deserve, this is white supremacy.
When immigrant members of our communities are criticized for “taking others’ jobs” and “draining our resources” instead of recognized for their hard work and contributions to our County, this is white supremacy.
When County residents of color are disproportionately burdened by the cost of their housing, and yet still can’t be sure that their homes will be healthy or safe, this is white supremacy.
When communities of color experience police harassment and brutality because they are presumed to be more “criminal” than white communities, this is white supremacy.
When opioid addiction among white community members is a national health crisis but drug use in communities of color is a rationale for mass incarceration and economic devastation, this is white supremacy.
And when we live in a County where a majority of our residents are people of color, but our local legislature is 77% white, this is white supremacy.
White supremacy does not require anyone to be intentionally racist. It is not merely personal behavior or attitudes; it is a pervasive system and a structure that perpetuates itself. If we keep arguing that racism is limited only to a few “bad apples” and outrageous incidents while ignoring the stories and lived realities of people of color in our County, we are supporting white supremacy. We are supporting the same mentality that pretends that a Confederate flag is merely about states’ rights and that hate speech is merely innocuous free speech. Ignoring the attitudes, beliefs and practices that maintain white supremacy is a choice to let them continue.
Edmund Burke said that “[t]he only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It is not enough to simply be good people with the right politics. It is not enough to believe that we would have stood up against Nazi Germany if we’d been there, or to say that we marched for civil rights back in the day. It is time to show what we are willing to do NOW so that racism and white supremacy no longer shape our public discourse and public policy. Beyond resistance and rhetoric, we must work every single day to build a society that truly embodies justice – not only in words, but in our the daily lives of every person in our County.
We stand here today united in our commitment to ensure that Montgomery County is a safe and welcoming place for all people. We call on the current County Council and County Executive to name and to end institutional racism in the policies and practices of our County. We are all candidates for office, but regardless of who wins the 2018 elections, we commit to working together as community leaders, parents, teachers, scientists, mediators, and organizers who will advance truly progressive policy that makes equity a reality in our county.