Putting a Face on Discrimination

White supremacists and the Springfield MLK celebration

Last week the Eugene/Springfield area held various events to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Students spent the days leading up to the celebration creating poems and artwork in their classrooms. They read stories and did assignments that described how Martin Luther King Jr. has influenced and inspired them.  In Springfield the MLK march made its way through downtown ending at Springfield High School. We gathered to see the student’s artwork, hear music and celebrate together as a community. The crowd walked together listening to the beautiful sounds of drumming and singing, by just one man at the march. He sang “Freedom” and other civil rights march music from the 1960s. Like many years before, it was a truly powerful and moving experience.

This year our celebration took a depressing turn. As we rounded the corner we could see a man playing the bagpipes, dressed in traditional Scottish attire and a woman holding a sign. Fellow marchers commented on how nice it was to have more music at our event. However, as we got closer to the two standing in front of the high school, we could see what the sign read, “Diversity is a code word for White Genocide.” Our joyous group turned solemn as we looked at each other in shock. It was clear our Martin Luther King Jr. march was being protested by the same ideology MLK worked so hard to change. The people of the march got quiet and were visibly upset. Here we were, celebrating the man who fought so hard for freedom and peaceful demonstration. He fought for dignity and equality, and inspired others to do the same. Still, in 2014 there are people who still judge others for the color of their skin. This couple’s freedom of speech was honored, they were not asked to leave. They remained in front of Springfield High School throughout the duration of the celebration.

You may ask, what does that sign even mean? “White Genocide”? Why would diversity lead to genocide? As the week after the celebration went on, I found out exactly what it meant, and to what extent the people who believe this way will go to spread their message. After positing my picture of the couple on social media, I was asked if it could be used in the Eugene Weekly blog: “Diversity is anti-white?” I wanted to talk to our community and make people aware that this group was in our neighborhood.  I wanted an open forum for people in our neighborhood to discuss this. I wanted my friends to talk to their kids and know the language they use for recruitment. However, soon after the blog was posted it was taken over by the white power folks. They shared our blog to a white supremacists website, and like a big blinking swastika beacon, they swarmed the Eugene Weekly blog. Little did I know I had taken a photo of the most active members of the white supremacist group in Lane County, Jimmy and Judy Marr.

This group frequently protests on MLK day, denouncing his civil rights work as, “against the white race.”  Jimmy Marr has stated at public appearances, “MLK was a moral leper and communist dupe.” Apparently this year, the MLK march in Springfield was their target. Marr has also claimed responsibly for the banner drop during Labor Day weekend, in Eugene last year. Hanging over I-5 the banner said, “Anti-racists is code word for Anti-white.” Similar banner drops in Portland have used this type of language as well. He is well known for taking over the free speech forum at the University of Oregon, (Pacifica Forum) and has expressed admiration for Hitler at his National Socialist Movement speech. The SPLC, (Southern Poverty Law Center) is a nonprofit civil rights organization, which promotes tolerance and respect in our schools. They document these groups, and Marr is an affiliate of established National Socialist organizations.

It was very difficult to explain to my children that there are still people who believe we should be segregated. After all the fun we had marching with our friends, working so hard on artwork and learning about civil rights leaders all week, it was disappointing this kind of cultural misunderstanding still occurs.  They say “White Genocide is caused by the Anti-whites (anti-racists),” who promote immigration, genetic mixing and the forced assimilation of the races. This happens through diversity and multiculturalism in our schools. So, anyone fighting for human equality, dignity and diversity are anti-white and want white genocide? This is highly delusional, considering genocide is caused by one group of people wiping out another group of people by war, ethnic cleansing, etc. … In general, “cide” means death. The mixing of the races has been going on since the beginning of time and not death or genocide.

Over the last week our community has been under verbal assault by this group, dominating the blog. They are fueled and motivated by deep resentment, for what they feel is “forced diversity.” Their underlined fear comes from being in a world where they feel powerless to the inevitable melting pot. When I asked, “Why demonstrate in front of a school?” one blogger said, “Multiculturalism and diversity doesn’t belong in a school. Diversity just means less white people.” Again, something else difficult to explain to my children, who learn about different cultures, equality and diversity from me and in school.

What is the “white culture” anyway? A country that is homogeneous can still be ethnically diverse and united. I am white and from three different white majority cultures, but all are very different. I am proud of my white family tree, but that doesn’t make me intolerant of others. Accepting others for the color of their skin, culture or life experiences benefits all. Diversity has led to more understanding and compassion for each other and has not lead to the extinction of the white race. For this white supremacist group to ignore the many contributions made by a diverse population; I see them as the group doing the most damage. The ideology is so far from common sense it is amazing they attract so many followers.

By taking one photo, I brought a face to the level of discrimination in our community. By them infiltrating our blog with their nonsense, they informed the neighborhood on just how ridiculous that face can be. There is no way to have a reasonable conversation with the “white power,” we are not going to change their thinking. The only way to stop this is to talk to our children, so they are not sucked in. Tell your children to speak up and tell an adult if they see or hear these words. This is just as intrusive and offensive to our kids as gangs and bullying. The most telling blog post stated they had no idea Eugene/Springfield had a “Clan.” That was exactly my point in bringing this issue up. Talk to your kids and their friends about how this group recruits. As supremacist activity ramps up, residents of Springfield frequently get supremacists literature, pamphlets and flyers stuck to our doors, cars and scattered around playgrounds. Their last littering event was a year ago, along Centennial Blvd and was reported by the local media. The community was not happy, they spoke out, and the activity subsided.

Jimmy Marr stood in front of a LOCAL high school, in MY neighborhood, bringing his message to OUR community. This isn’t something that happened 40 years ago during the civil rights movement; it’s happening here and now. The children should not have had this celebration, their artwork and poems tainted by the Aryan Brotherhood. Our children naturally accept differences in people. They are taught to share and support each other with love and understanding. We want to teach our children about history and all cultures. We teach them how not to repeat the ideology of our past, so we learn the lessons of our mistakes.

My six-year-old multicultural nephew, who was studying Martin Luther King in school, put it this way, “See the top of my hand? It is brown like Daddy. Now, look at the color on the inside of my hand. It’s white. That’s the same as Mommy. I am both! Martin Luther King made it ok for us to be together.”   — Dana J. Cook