Farm to Neighbors: When Denouncing White Supremacy Is Deemed Brave, The Bar Is Too Low

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Talk about a sorry sign of the times. A family farm in Centreville, Virginia has caused an incongruous uproar after proclaiming on their roadside sign not the arrival of sweet corn, baby goats, hanging baskets or their renowned Fall Festival but the evidently inflammatory sentiment, "Resist White Supremacy." The community-minded denizens of Cox Farms have been here before: They have flown rainbow flags, declared Black Lives Matter, and posted “We love our Muslim neighbors,” "You belong. Stay strong" and  “Fight ignorance not immigrants" on their signs. Reportedly facing some confusion in response to their most recent, "Rise and Resist," they amended it to "Rise Up Against Injustice" and added the White Supremacy one. "We sincerely believe that fighting injustice and white supremacy is a responsibility that can - and should- unite us all," they said in a Facebook post. "We struggle to see how anyone other than self-identified white supremacists would take this as a personal attack."

Yes, well. A fair number did, seething that the message is "wrong," "sad," divisive and "threatens the end of our republic." "So black supremacy is okay then?" wrote one clueless naysayer. Also, "When you single out a group of people you exclude them" and, entirely missing the point, "I don't appreciate having to explain politics to young children on a day when we just wanted (to) pick out a pumpkin." Then again, many more noted the dazzling irony: “If you see a sign that says ‘Resist White Supremacy’ and you first instinct is ‘Well, I’m never shopping THERE again!’, guess what? You’re part of the reason signs like that need to exist." Notably, the Cox family likewise patiently and eloquently tried to explain what's wrong with this picture, much as they did when some objected to the Black Lives sign but no Blue Lives one:  "You're right - we do not support ‘Blue Lives Matter,'” they replied. "Police lives are already and by default valued in our society. Black lives are not, so we believe a declaration that Black Lives Matter is necessary and important.”

Now, as then, they painstakingly responded to critics. "Our little roadside signs have power," they thoughtfully note, adding that along with announcing hayrides and Santa visits they want to offer "a message of support and inclusion to a community that is struggling." Above all, they seek to educate those who feel that's divisive: "We ask you to reflect on the possibility that your lived experience may be one that hasn’t necessitated a message of inclusion to make you feel welcome." Acknowledging they may lose customers or at least aggravate them - "We appreciate that being an informed consumer can... involve making hard choices about values and priorities" - they "see it as our moral responsibility (to) engage visibly and actively in the fight for justice." Besides, "During the off-season, we have nothing to sell, lots to say, and plenty of time for conversation." Ending with a reference to the hateful times, they end by quoting Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

When news of their sign kept spreading, they added a second post. While grateful for so much support, they write, they are alarmed at the defensiveness and misinformation surrounding the notion of white supremacy, "because understanding these institutional systems of oppression is such a critical first step towards breaking them down" - a task that "is our work to do as white people." Most vitally, they add movingly, "If this is seen as bravery, then the bar is simply too low." They go on to cite instances of true bravery: DACA recipients storming the Capitol, Maxine Waters “reclaiming (her) time,” a 15-year-old refusing to rise for the pledge, a neighbor “farming while Black” and calling out racism, just walking or driving as a person of color. "We are white people using our privilege and power to say something that should be obvious but clearly still needs to be said," they insist. "There's nothing brave about that."

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