Do Not Merely Eat Cake

12 months ago Kelsey Goldberg

Last night Tina Fey went on Weekend Update and tapped into the fear and helplessness that millions of Americans are feeling with a hilarious bit about eating cake. I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh, or if I didn’t find that sketch to be an incredibly cathartic viewing experience. As a comedian I’m really hesitant to read too much into a bit like that, because it’s just comedy.

She chose a viewpoint, distilled it down to its base perspective, and then built it up and heightened it for comedic effect—that’s what comedy does. However, after logging on to social media and seeing throngs of people talking as if they are going to take her advice this bears stating: Do not under any circumstances think that staying home and eating cake will make the Nazis go away.

My objection to this advice hinges on both a social and political analysis. I’ll start with the social because it’s a little more feel-good. The last thing any of us need when we are feeling this confused, scared, and helpless is to be alone. Now more than ever we need to fight the rapid isolation of our modern society, and we need to band together and solidify and strengthen our communities.

If you want to eat cake, go ahead, but do it with a group and do it while discussing ways you can make a difference and how you can get those around you to join you in doing so. Not to be a complete leftist stereotype but the lyric in “Solidarity Forever” is dead on: “Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one.”

Alone we are weak, we are isolated, we cannot begin to tackle the monstrosity of hate that is bubbling up in our society. Together we can tackle it, together we can protect each other, together we can love, organize, mobilize. Together we can take a stand against hate.

Which leads me to the political argument. We must take a stand against hate; a loud, visible, unignorable stand against all systems of oppression that terrorize various communities. The idea that you can take the oxygen out of the alt-right simply by ignoring them is a naïve underestimation of what these alt right marches symbolize. They are not cries for attention. They are attempts at showing strength. They are beacons to those who might side with them but are inactive that it’s OK, that they can and should join.

To let these shows of strength go unopposed will not remove oxygen but infuse it into this movement. Nazis commented that the UVA march’s purpose was to build “camaraderie and trust” amongst their members. They are organizing with an eye towards building capacity and we must do the same.

I’m not suggesting that the left shouldn’t consider a diversity of tactics- we absolutely should, but we need to look very carefully at all of those tactics. So what is the efficacy of letting Nazis march out in the open with no opposition? Do you truly believe that Nazis’ end game is just a parade?

The history of Nazism and the KKK is not one of staying in the streets. If we allow them to grow strong, then they come to people’s houses. Objectively you might be safer not attending a counter protest that evening. But are you making the world safer? If not, which communities are you asking to shoulder the weight of that unsafe world? What message do we send to those communities who will have to confront the rise of Nazism first and most directly when they see no one else show up to say that it’s wrong?

Not everyone gets to walk to the bakery to pick up the sheet cake with the protective cloak of Tina Fey’s white skin, and not everyone gets to eat that sheet cake in the safety of homes that are registered to folks with Anglo-Protestant last names. While I won’t recommend that anyone do something that makes them feel unsafe or risk more than they are comfortable, I will ask that you think very critically about whether you are actually making the world a safer place for your loved ones going forward.

The safest we could be is at a counter protest when they are in the hundreds and we are in the hundreds of thousands. There is safety in numbers, and numbers are exactly what we need right now. We need a chorus of voices drowning out their hate and declaring that the better world we want to live in starts today. And then we need people to wake up the next morning and do the boring—and yes, safe—work that organizing that world takes.

Whether or not you decide to counter protest this weekend I implore you to recognize that the luxury of inaction is not one our world can afford anymore.

There is a huge middle-ground between joining Antifa and staying home and eating cake. Protestors need water, they need signs, they need childcare, they need carpools, they need legal observers, they might need street medics. There is a lot you can do to actively support those who do feel comfortable and are able to go to a counter protest. Moreover, our job is not done when the counter-protest disperses.

Join an organization whether it be DSA, AF3IRM, NDLON, Ice Out of LA, BLM, Stop LAPD Spying, Idle No More, any organization that is dedicated to fighting the systems of oppression that are synthesized in the rise of Nazism. Trump may have emboldened the Nazis but he did not create them; they were here in the shadows being supported and encouraged by systems and politicians that pre-date Trump.

Yes, even in blue states and even by politicians with a “D” by their name. If we want to make sure that no generation ever has to deal with the question of Nazis and the KKK we need to look at the way we organize society and our local politics critically and we need to set on the task of dismantling all systems that act as life support for systems of oppression.

As Stokely Carmichael observed, racism and sexism are a question not of attitude but of power. “Racism gets its power from capitalism. Thus, if you’re anti- racist, whether you know it or not, you must be anti-capitalist.” So if you are not a leftist and you managed to make it this far, ask the following questions: Where does power come from, who holds it, and how are they wielding it?