After the violent and deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville jolted white America to acknowledge the virulent racism unleashed by the Trump administration, one man has publicly disavowed his son for marching on behalf of white supremacists. And more white people should follow his example.
After learning that his son, Pete Tefft, participated in the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that killed one woman and injured over a dozen, Pearce Tefft publicly disavowed his son and everything he represents.“I, along with all of his siblings and his entire family, wish to loudly repudiate my son’s vile, hateful and racist rhetoric and actions,” he wrote in Fargo paper The Forum. “We do not know specifically where he learned these beliefs. He did not learn them at home.”
“Peter Tefft, my son, is not welcome at our family gatherings any longer,” he wrote. “I pray my prodigal son will renounce his hateful beliefs and return home. Then and only then will I lay out the feast.”
The letter continued:
He once joked, “The thing about us fascists is, it’s not that we don’t believe in freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want. We’ll just throw you in an oven.”
Peter, you will have to shovel our bodies into the oven, too. Please son, renounce the hate, accept and love all.
Right, so, if you have a family member or good friend who is making Holocaust jokes about shutting people into the oven, that is not a thing to take lightly. In fact, you have a responsibility to one, shut that conversation down, and two, establish why that’s not an okay thing to say ever, ever again and make it clear that you will not tolerate it. Maybe if more people established these boundaries with their loved ones, they’d be able to catch bigotry before it turned into violence.
Tefft’s nephew, Jacob, similarly renounced Peter in the same paper, writing, in part:
“In brief, we reject him wholly – both him personally as a vile person who has HIMSELF made violent threats against our family, and also his hideous ideology, which we abhor. We are all bleeding-heart liberals who believe in the fundamental equality of all human beings. Peter is a maniac, who has turned away from all of us and gone down some insane internet rabbit-hole, and turned into a crazy nazi. He scares us all, we don’t feel safe around him, and we don’t know how he came to be this way. My grandfather feels especially grieved, as though he has failed as a father.”Pete Tefft’s photo went viral after he appeared in this video from the rally:
The disavowal came after a video of Pete Tefft went viral. But his abhorrent views didn’t suddenly form overnight. He has been a controversial figure in Fargo, North Dakota for months and was involved in an altercation at the local Women’s March. In late January, members of the community issued posters warning neighbors that Tefft is a Nazi. “I’m a white Christian and 100 percent pro-white. ‘White Supremacist’ is a word used to intimidate Christians and to stifle discord when all of us should be communicating,” he told The Forum. “I’m interested solely in legal political action to further pro-white interests. We as white people have a right to exist, our own identity, and a right to campaign politically and legally for our own interests.”
This is a good reminder that neo-nazism and white supremacy do not exist in a vacuum. Charlottesville happened because Trump made people like Tefft feel safe expressing their hatred, and because white people who love them have continued to tolerate, ignore, justify, and even support these attitudes. For anyone reflecting on the things they can do to dismantle the continuing rise of white nationalism, the Tefft family’s response to their son’s extremist beliefs is a good step to take.