This weekend, white supremacists swarmed Charlottesville, Virginia, for a “Unite the Right” rally, a response to a proposal to remove a local statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee. The white supremacists used violence against anti-racists protesters, killing one woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring at least 34 others. It’s horrifying, and it’s evidence of the growth of the white supremacist movement in the United States. BUST’s “digital team” is one white woman (hi) working part time with a few interns helping out, and my voice is absolutely not the one you need to hear today. Instead, let me show you some pieces published elsewhere that you should read or listen to.
First, if you’re just catching up on the news, “A Guide to the Violence in Charlottesville” by Maggie Astor for the New York Times
White nationalists gathered on Saturday for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, where they were met by counterprotesters. Taunting led to shoving, which escalated into brawling. Then, around 1:45 p.m., a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters and another car.
One person was killed; she was identified as Heather D. Heyer, 32, a paralegal from Charlottesville who “was a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised and was often moved to tears by the world’s injustices.”
“I think for them to be allowed to come here and protest is really crazy. How do you expect the KKK to come to your city to protest, and them not be violent? I understand everyone is entitled to their freedom of speech, but the government and the mayor made a bad business move. It’s only caused havoc in your own city. It’s crazier that people have the hatred in their heart to want to kill black people,” Harris stated.
Heather denounced any type of discrimination, not just racism. She stood up for gay rights and – just anything that she felt like was wrong, she stood for.
“Everyone must be clear that this is a terrorist attack, this is a white supremacist terrorist attack.”
We are seeing now what emerges from the American fetish for tradition, which is, in part, a fetish for the authority of the rich white male. While I was at U.V.A., the fact that slaves had built the school was hardly discussed, and the most prominent acknowledgment that Jefferson was a slave owner came on Valentine’s Day, when signs went up all over campus that said “TJ ♥s Sally.”
Those who think white supremacy is a “white guys’ thing” must ask themselves about the nature of the fantasy they have constructed. Do we really believe the men holding torches in these photographs live in some sort of single-gendered society, or that the women they interact with hold no sway in their communities? There may be fewer of them marching with lit torches, but rest assured women are playing a powerful role wherever they can enact their agendas. If the 1920s Klan showed us anything, it’s that racist ideologies are nurtured in communities — not in isolation — and woven into a society’s very fabric. We will never understand the mechanisms that enact racism until we understand the whole societies from which they spring.
The president’s unwillingness to understand the rise of the alt-right, overt racism, and street violence as anything other than a need for “both sides do it” head shaking and finger wagging isn’t just obtuse. It leads him to say things that, inadvertently or otherwise, end up signaling to the white supremacists that he is on their side.
When President Trump says that Americans have cause for unity because “We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are,” he’s using the same words that the people who are trying to “protect” American “identity” from nonwhite and non-Christian Americans use. When he says “we must cherish our history” in response to a rally that was initially convened to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, it sure sounds like he’s siding with the people who want to keep the statue.
The sickening images that emerged from Charlottesville herald that somemoment has arrived. It is a moment of indeterminate morality, one in which the centrifugal forces of contempt, resentment, and racial superiority are pitted against the ideal of common humanity and the possibility of a civic society. We have entered a new phase of the Trump era. The breach that Trump has courted since he first emerged in public life has become apparent; it is more deadly and its architects more emboldened. What happened in Virginia was not the culminating battle of this conflict. It’s likely a tragic preface to more of the same.
“’Vile bigotry’: Politicians respond to violent protests in Charlottesville” by Kevin Uhrmacher, Denise Lu, Kevin Schaul and Aaron Steckelberg for the Washington Post — a breakdown of if politicians named and condemned white supremacy, or if they, like Trump, blamed “many sides”
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer: “What I did not hear in the president’s statement yesterday, as well-intentioned as it may have been, is I didn’t hear the words ‘white supremacy’. And I think that it’s important to call this for what it is and to say, okay, this show has run its course, this shark has been jumped, let’s move on.”
But history doesn’t absolve Trump. His tepid response to such overt and violent racism recalls a much earlier era, when people who espoused these violent ideologies held real political power. The political calculus for a contemporary president should be different. Congressional Republicans, for example, like Marco Rubio and Cory Gardner have asked the president to more strongly condemn what’s happened. Presidents have typically lagged behind the racial justice activists of their day — sometimes far behind. But Trump is unusual in also lagging behind today’s widely understood norms.
This weekend is not, of course, the first time that Trump has appeared reluctant to denounce white nationalists or other racist groups and individuals, many of whom supported his presidential campaign last year. He retweeted accounts and memes with ties to white supremacist groups, and he waited until deep into the campaign before firmly disavowing the support of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. That suggests that Trump’s cautious statements, like those of past presidents, may stem in part from his reluctance to alienate a key group of supporters; in Trump’s case, however, those key supporters include avowed racists.
If you’re tempted to point out that you’re one of the good ones right now . . . please don’t.
If you are upset that people of color are upset that their lives and beliefs are under assault by a resurgent, resilient, citronella candle-filled white supremacist movement, empowered by a White House that can’t call a racist a racist because #notallwhitepeople . . . please be quiet.
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