“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
If you watched the first Presidential Debate on September 29th in its entirety, first of all, congratulations on making it through the entire debate. What a painful yet necessary experience it was and I’m here for you in solidarity. None of us deserved to be subjected to that.
Despite the difficulty of sitting through that first debate, it proved to be pivotal for me, as I’m sure it was for millions of other Americans. You see, up until that day I had never registered to vote. This was never something that I was particularly ashamed or proud of. I’d just never felt the conviction to register; I didn’t believe that my vote mattered if I’m being honest. After Donald Trump won the 2016 election despite Hillary raking in 2.1% more of the popular vote, this logic that my vote would mean nothing was cemented. I’d touted my right not to vote just as others would emphasize the importance of my right to vote. Then there were people who would declare that it’s better I not register to vote at all if I didn’t plan to vote for [insert Democratic or Republican nominee here]. No matter what, though, I didn’t argue when I was told that I didn’t have the right to complain about the results of the election or the four years to follow when I didn’t vote, because they were absolutely right.
It wasn’t until I heard these seven words uttered by our President that I felt an immediate shift in myself: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
Did I hear that right? There’s no way, I thought. I played it back countless times, just hoping and praying that maybe I’d heard him wrong.
This statement came in response to moderator Chris Wallace’s inquiry of the President’s willingness “to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and say they need to stand down and not to add to the violence”. I don’t think I’m being nitpicky when I say that there’s a distinct difference between ordering a violent, chauvinistic group of (predominantly) white men with superiority complexes to stand down, which by definition means to withdraw or resign from a position or state of readiness, and telling them to stand back and stand by. Stand back where? Behind you, Mr. President? But more importantly…what do you want them to stand by for? What do you want them to be ready for? In spewing these terrifying words, the President spurred the hopes of a dangerous organization.
In the days that followed, the President did his best to reel back his words, stating at first that he meant for them to stand down and let the police do their jobs (questionable still) and later claiming to not know who the Proud Boys were at all, which I personally find hard to believe considering they’ve provided security for former Trump advisor Roger Stone. Pleading ignorance seems to be a common theme with this one, no? At any rate, the damage had been done and what he claimed to have meant by his words was moot as the Proud Boys had taken his words and ran with them. The organization had already created and listed merchandise on their website making “Proud Boys, Stand By” something of a new slogan for themselves thanks solely to our President.
Who are the Proud Boys?
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys are “self-described ‘western chauvinists’ who adamantly deny any connection to the racist ‘alt-right,’ insisting they are simply a fraternal group spreading an ‘anti-political correctness’ and ‘anti-white guilt’ agenda.” Despite their claim that they have no connection to the racist alt-right, the formation of the group itself was announced by founder Gavin McInnes in the far-right publication Taki’s Magazine, whose contributors include white nationalist leader Richard Spencer and white supremacist Jared Taylor. Some quotes from the founder himself include:
“Maybe the reason I’m sexist is because women are dumb. No, I’m just kidding, ladies. But you do tend to not thrive in certain areas — like writing.” — Gavin McInnes, The Gavin McInnes Show, June 28, 2017
“We brought roads and infrastructure to India and they are still using them as toilets. Our criminals built nice roads in Australia but aboriginals keep using them as a bed. The next time someone [bitches] about colonization, the correct response is ‘You’re welcome.’” — Gavin McInnes, “10 Things I like About White Guys,” Taki’s Magazine, March 2, 2017
“The white liberal ethos tells us blacks aren’t at MIT because of racism. They say blacks dominate the prison population for the same reason. They insist America is a racist hellhole where ‘people of color’ have no future. This does way more damage to black youth than the KKK. When you strip people of culpability and tell them the odds are stacked against them, they don’t feel like trying. White liberals make this worse by then using affirmative action to “correct” society’s mistakes. When blacks are forced into schools they aren’t qualified for they have no choice but to drop out. Instead of going back a step to a school they can handle, they tend to give up on higher education entirely. Thanks to the Marxist myth of ubiquitous equality, this ‘mismatch’ leaves blacks less educated than they would have been had they been left to their own devices.”
— Gavin McInnes, “America in 2034,” American Renaissance, June 17, 2014
“Buying woman parts from a hospital and calling yourself a broad trivializes what it is to be a woman. Womanhood is not on a shelf next to wigs and makeup. Similarly, being a dude is quite involved. Ripping your vaginal canal out of your fly doesn’t mean you are going to start inventing shit and knowing how cement works. Being a man is awesome. So is being a woman. We should revere these creations, not revel in their bastardization.”
— Gavin McInnes, “Transphobia is Perfectly Natural,” Thought Catalog, August 8, 2014
“Palestinians are stupid. Muslims are stupid. And the only thing they really respect is violence and being tough.”
— Gavin McInnes, The Gavin McInnes Show, March 8, 2017
FYI, you can find these quotes and additional information about the group in the link I shared above and I encourage you to do so.
At this moment in the debate, when time stood still for me and probably countless other Americans, I hit pause and opened up my PC to register to vote. I felt sick and ashamed that it took me so long to understand just how dangerous this man is to our society. As a woman, as a member of the LGBTQIA community, as a mother to two daughters, I finally felt the guilt hit me after all these years. How dare I, with all of my white privilege, do and say nothing up to this point? What right did I have to tune out the things that were taking place in our country? The crimes against POC that were so blatant yet somehow so easily lost in the noise of the media? A president that seemed to be, at best, indifferent to those crimes? I was never a Trump supporter, I have never identified with either political party. But turning a blind eye and failing to see the true impact of people like him on our society is inexcusable. In the end, I was unable to vote this year due to reasons I won’t get into here that I’m pretty upset about. But despite what Gavin McInnes has to say, I can write and I will write. I will do everything I can to become a better advocate for people who are victimized by an unfair system, by governments and organizations that don’t care about or support them, and everything in-between. I implore you to do the same.