After an Aug. 12 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent -- leaving one anti-racist counter-protester dead and numerous others injured -- it's imperative that white allies take a definitive stand against white supremacy. While these conversations and actions can be difficult and even scary, they are necessary. And a letter from the father of white nationalist Peter Tefft renouncing his son is setting a powerful example for those who are unsure how to handle their own racist family members.
In an open letter published on Inforum.com, a North Dakota news outlet, Pearce Tefft, father of Peter Tefft, who was identified as a participant in the Aug. 11 march at University of Virginia, wrote a letter disavowing his son's beliefs and disowning him. He said:
I, along with all of his siblings and his entire family, wish to loudly repudiate my son's vile, hateful and racist rhetoric and actions. We do not know specifically where he learned these beliefs. He did not learn them at home. I have shared my home and hearth with friends and acquaintances of every race, gender and creed. I have taught all of my children that all men and women are created equal. That we must love each other all the same. Evidently Peter has chosen to unlearn these lessons, much to my and his family's heartbreak and distress. We have been silent up until now, but now we see that this was a mistake. It was the silence of good people that allowed the Nazis to flourish the first time around, and it is the silence of good people that is allowing them to flourish now.
Tefft's heartbreaking letter refers to Peter as his "prodigal son" and says he will no longer be welcome at home until he renounces his hateful beliefs.
Just after the 2016 presidential election, the internet was alight with think pieces ruminating over whether or not it was worth losing family and friends over politics. Should we even discuss Trump with our family members? Many argued that it wasn't worth the grief -- that losing family members to politics is foolish. Childish, even.
But Tefft's letter is vital to understanding how to truly fight white supremacy.
Too often, we make concessions and excuses for the ones we love the most, and so the move might seem drastic to some -- cutting off a family member for going to a political rally.
This is not mere politics. This is not a difference in opinion over the tax code. The people who marched at the "Unite the Right" rally are white supremacists who chanted, "You will not replace us" (ostensibly referring to the removal of the statue of slave-owning confederate general Robert E. Lee) and even "Jews will not replace us." There were Nazi flags, and there were chants of "blood and soil" -- a well-known Nazi slogan.
But Facebook filters and tweeting aren't enough. There need to be real world consequences for people like Peter Tefft.
Peter Tefft and his ilk should be publicly shamed and rejected for holding these beliefs -- and for acting on them. Whether it's being identified by @YesYoureRacist and fired from your job or being refused bail after allegedly killing a counter-protester. There should be consequences for advocating for a white ethnostate and for being overtly, disgustingly racist.
Tefft makes certain that his son knows that there is no home for him as long as he holds these hateful beliefs.
His move is a vital example for the rest of us who might be scared to make things awkward at Thanksgiving, or upset our aunts and uncles, parents, siblings. Our Peter Teffts.
Pearce Tefft was brave enough to promise that he and his family will not be complicit and will not allow this to be swept under the rug. If Tefft can say it, we can all say it: Racism has no home here.