#Charlottesville and Trump: some thoughts
I’ve been putting off writing on this platform. I have the usual excuses — I’m too busy at work, I’m too tired after work, It’s summer and I want to have fun, I’d rather scroll on Instagram for 4 hours and then go to bed…all pretty pathetic, right? I created this platform to give myself an opportunity to talk about ideas that I don’t always have a way to discuss in my day-to-day work and home life. It’s all up to me, but yet I’m not being accountable to myself, doing a creative activity that I want to do.
The tragic events that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend shook me out of my summer leisure and I put these words to paper i.e. computer screen.
This weekend I went home to visit my family in Tallahassee, Florida, where I grew up and lived until I was 18. My extended family has lived there since the mid-1950’s and I still have many close friends in town. I always look forward to going home, and I am proud to have grown up in the South.
However, visits since the last presidential election (three in total) have felt more fraught. While most of my family and friends are liberal and voted for HRC, the feeling of being home has changed. People feel more separated, I feel nervous to talk about politics in Publix…it’s a feeling of not knowing who you can trust. I don’t know, but I imagine, that its a shred of how African Americans and other minorities feel constantly in this country.
Despite growing up liberal in the South, and intellectually knowing that all people are created equal, learning the history of slavery, and seeing the day to day impacts of structural racism, I have grown much more aware of my many white privileges and limited world experiences as I’ve lived my adult life in New York City. These experiences have shown me the holes in my childhood experiences, my blind spots, the subtle racisms that I was surrounded by:
Why were there so few black kids at my private school? Why did my parents feel they had to send me to private school to get a good education? Why were there so few black families (or any minority families) in our upper middle class neighborhood? Why did all the black people live in one part of the city? Why did the top graduates from a predominately black public high school go on to worse colleges than the summa graduates from my (better) public high school? Why didn’t I have any black friends? Why were mixed race couples gossiped about and looked down upon? Why were our lives so different if racism ended in the 1960s? And on and on and on.
Skipping ahead several years, after lots of hard conversations, reading and time spent examining the way that my life has gone (and all the ways it could have gone differently if I was born a different race), here we are. Here I am.
A “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally and domestic terrorist attack happened in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. Don’t call it anything but what it was. Despite what our president was *forced* into acknowledging, violence did not come from all sides — it came from racist, nationalist groups that came together to protest the removal of a symbol of a fallen, racist regime. Anything less than a full-throated denunciation of these actions is not enough, and our president showed that he was incapable of doing that. Saying “racism is evil” is simply not enough.
In regards to the Confederate statues, they should be removed. Put models of them in museums or put up small historical markers if these particular items are necessary to remember the horrific history of generations of slavery. Melt down the statues and use the raw materials to make monuments to our Civil Rights and Women’s Rights leaders and participants. Honor those that have sought to move to greater equality, community and understanding: not towards anger, oppression and hate.
Don’t get it twisted: the president is in power partially because he aligned himself with the white supremacist movements. As David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, stated: “This represents a turning point for the people of this country,” Duke said at the rally. “We are determined to take our country back. We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we have to do” (http://bit.ly/2uWQ0er).
Richard Spencer, another white nationalist stated that ‘while he didn’t think of Trump as “alt-right,” he considers the president to be “the first true authentic nationalist in my lifetime”’ (http://read.bi/2wZ0RpA). This should terrify you if it doesn’t already.
In addition to being openly supported by white supremacists, our President has several high-level advisors that openly identify with and support white supremacy movements. Think about that: the people that advise the leader of the world believe that white people, by virtue of their skin color, are superior to all others. These people believe that “white genocide” is a real thing, a real threat to their way of life. All of the policies that we protest and fear, and that others applaud, stem from this: a border wall, heightened immigration, police harassment, tougher drug laws, and many more that I’m sure I’m leaving off.
I am no longer interested in hearing that this campaign was about economic issues, or about jobs, or about a lack of interest in Hillary Clinton as a candidate, or any of the other reasons that the pundits and analysts have come up with: it is about racism and white nationalism.
If you voted for the current president and you protest that you aren’t racist or nationalist: it’s not enough. You were able to overlook his birther campaign against President Obama; racist comments implying that most Mexicans are rapists; defense of Japanese internment camps during WWII; the derision of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, who’s son died for our country; and the repeated belief that the Central Park 5 are guilty. These specific incidents are on top of many, many other general racist, sexist and anti-immigrant comments.
If you voted for him, you were able to overlook all of these things. After Charlottesville, there is no gray area anymore. You are either against the neo-Nazis, the KKK, the alt-right and all of the other groups and individuals that believe that whites are superior to other races — and therefore you are against our president, or you are with him in his racist small-minded bigotry.
Rest in power, Heather Hayer. Thank you.