by Alice Cheshire

There’s nothing quite like learning that Nazis are marching in the streets.
In America.
In 2017.

Grown men bearing swastikas and carrying torches, screaming Nazi phrases like “blood and soil!” and holding up one arm in the famed white power signal.

When I was five years old, I got my first taste of a white man thinking he was better than people of color. My father. We were in traffic, and he was yelling at a black person and informing me that “black people can’t drive”.

FYI, I live in Jacksonville, Florida. Nobody here can drive.

Five year old me had the conscious thought of how stupid my father’s words were. I lived in a diverse neighborhood, and my favorite friends were my Japanese neighbor and my black neighbors. Because I was a child, I hadn’t been taught yet about the ignorance of hating someone for their skin color. I was a kid. I played with other kids. I decided if I liked them based on how they treated me.

Two years later, my father did it again. He sat me and my siblings down in our living room because we were having dinner guests; an interracial couple that had just had a baby. “It’s okay if other people do it,” my dad told us. “But none of my kids will ever date a black person.”

He was wrong, by the way. My sister had two beautiful mixed-race children that are amazing kids.

What shocked me most as a child was how my father interacted with black people. He never acted racist with them, he treated them as equals to their faces. But I knew his true opinion, one I never once shared.

It seemed like common sense to me, that people come in different colors, just as they do different heights, different shapes, different taste in music and clothes. It’s just part of who we are.

I received culture shock when I was 14. As I said, I’d grown up in a very diverse place. But when I was 14, my dad remarried, and we moved to the country. I went to a school that hosted grades 6th-12th. My first day, I looked around and I remember noticing the lack of diversity in this school. White people. White people everywhere. White teachers. White administrative workers. White students. I counted three black kids in the entire school, no Latinos, and I don’t recall seeing an Asian, or any other race of human.

I was uncomfortable in a sea of white people, despite the fact that I’m as pale as it gets. Trucks in the school parking lot flew oversized Confederate flags from their truck beds. I wondered why they hadn’t properly integrated. I was informed that it was a small town school, and this was normal.

I’d grown up in the city and always had a plethora of friends from different backgrounds and cultures. This new life was something I didn’t like. The racism from the people at this school was something right out of movies I’d seen that were set in the 1960s. The kids of color were basically shunned and bullied on the regular.
I befriended two of them and even got asked why a few times from my confederate flag loving classmates. “Because they’re cool,” I’d say, making sure to have a why-are-you-asking-a-stupid-question tone.

Why? Why was I going out of my way by befriending the photo negatives of myself?

Because they put up with the bullshit of their brainwashed peers treating them like lower beings in the 21st century. Because I wanted to separate myself from my white-skin-loving classmates. I only went to that school for a year, before I moved in with my grandmother. I started high school, and remember showing up my first day. About 50% of the population of that school was black, about 30% white, and the other 20% was mixed of multiple backgrounds. I immediately felt at home and had an incredible four years.

My sophomore year, though, I joined the bowling team (laugh if you must!). We ended up bowling against my old school. Some girls from the team recognized me and came over, wanting to know why I’d disappeared on them. They frowned at the number of black teammates I had as I cheerfully introduced them, bragging about my new life.
“You have a lot of black people on your team,” one said to me. “Isn’t it great?” I remember saying.

The look of pure discomfort the girl gave me sticks with me to this day, fifteen years later. I wanted her to feel uncomfortable. I wanted her to know it was unacceptable to look down on other humans for their skin color.

I never understood racism. Not once. I just can’t seem to get my IQ to drop that low.

When Donald Trump announced he was running for president and began his campaign that reeked of racism, I was appalled. How could anyone in this day and age listen to that man? Sure, the KKK would, but not normal, everyday people, right? I laughed when he got the nomination because I thought the Democrats would have it in the bag.

And then I began seeing MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hats and signs all over.

I wasn’t laughing anymore. I was uneasy. Surely people weren’t going to actually elect this buffoon of a human being? Surely they saw right through his lies, didn’t they? They had to be able to see he was dangerous, right? It was so obvious to me.

Muslim registry.

The moment those words were out, I went from uneasy, to furious. How could anyone think this was a good idea?! It was what Hitler had done to the Jews, to start. What happened to my America? The America that was literally founded on freedom to practice whatever religion you damn well pleased?!

This would be the kicker, though, I thought. For the people on the Trump Train that were decent to take a flying leap and head left on election day.

If Hillary wins the election, it’s rigged, Trump said.
On Election Day, those words played over and over in my mind. Why was he so confident? He ran a campaign of hate. Humans weren’t that bad, were they?
Yes. Yes, they were.

And now, eight months into his presidency, I can for sure say that humans are still bad. A woman named Heather Heyer was run over by a Nazi, and people blamed her for protesting hate. They said she shouldn’t have been in the street, where the protest was taking place. The anti-hate protesters she was with had a permit to be there.

She was run down like a dog for saying THIS ISN’T OKAY.
And people blamed her.

I drive around my city regularly and a few times I’ve seen huge red bumper stickers with the words NOT A LIBERAL glaring at me. As if caring about other humans and wanting equality is the worst thing imaginable.

I’m getting one that says NOT A NAZI.
Because this is 2017.
Because this is Trump’s America.
Because I want everyone around me in traffic and parking lots to know that I may be white, but I’m not an asshole. I’m not ignorant.

I’m angry.
And I’m resisting.
We can’t go back. We won’t go back.
If we have to fight every day, march every weekend, call our senators a hundred times a day, we will do it. We are the resistance.
And we are pissed.

I’m Alice Cheshire. And I’m #NotaNazi.
Make sure you’re not one, either.

Remember this:

Nice people made the best Nazis.
My mom grew up next to them.
They got along, refused to make waves.
They looked the other way when things got ugly,
And focused on “happier things than politics”.
They were lovely people who turned their heads
As their neighbors were dragged away.
You know who weren’t nice people?
Resisters.
-Naomi Shulman

So, are you a nice person?
Or are you a resistor?