As a teenager who calls Seattle home, I live in a bubble. I'm American, but also Canadian, and I spend my summers in Ontario with family.
Next year, I'll be going into Grade 8 at one of the best schools in the state (perhaps even in the country). The diversity in my school is expansive: we are black, brown, Asian, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Jewish.
Seattle is recognized as largely liberal, and is a fast expanding, wealthy city, thanks to companies like Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft. Because of this privileged and somewhat sheltered environment, I've never experienced firsthand any of the racial violence that is now occurring so frequently in our country. Some of my greatest role models (Bryan Stevenson, Malala Yousafzai, Maya Angelou) are/were a different race or religion from me, and I'm surrounded by people with different racial and cultural backgrounds in my daily life. Yet I think that I've been partially blind to racial differences, and one of those reasons has to be because I'm white.
I've certainly been aware of a distant struggle going on between rising white-supremacy groups and those who oppose neo-Nazism and racial bigotry, but I always believed those protests and counterprotests to be disconnected from my life. But with the recent protests in Charlottesville,Va., this matter is suddenly unequivocally staring me in the face. Because while I am white, I am also half-Jewish. I've been listening to the news and reading articles on what happened in Virginia, trying to understand this violence.
When I saw a video of white men marching across the University of Virginia campus – where my Jewish father studied to become a First Amendment lawyer – carrying torches and yelling, "Jews will not replace us" and horrid chants about black people, my bubble burst. These men, I realized, have a deep, burning hatred for black people and Jewish people, and anyone else that might endanger their perfect, "ethnically cleansed" America. And that meant me.
And so now I am wide awake. The white supremacists who were there to protest against the removal of a Confederate statue of General Robert E. Lee, were also trying to show just how much of an organized force for fascism, anti-Semitism and black hatred that they are. I fear this will only continue to spread across America, giving life to more neo-Nazis and KKK supporters. But now I am listening and I am watching, and I will stand up and use my voice against any racial slurs or epithets I hear.
Everybody has something they can do to support racial equality in this country. I donated my savings to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which focuses on monitoring hate and extremist groups in the United States. This is something simple, but it makes a difference.
While I am shocked and disgusted by this rise in white supremacy, I also am not afraid to use my voice to take a stand for what is right, because racial hatred is not the way forward. It is me and my friends, and all the youth of today, who must be the change-makers of the future.