Intolerance is thriving in Donald Trump’s America. What began with calls to build the wall has evolved into mass protests of white men screaming “blood and soil”. This past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia these protests left a community reeling after a terrorist drove from Ohio to Virginia to use his car as a weapon of mass violence. The incident left a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist named Heather Heyer dead. A woman was killed because she took a stand against the ugliness brought to her town by outsiders.
Those gathered in Virginia this weekend represented a cohort of the fringe right coalition. From survivalist paramilitary groups preparing for a race war/apocalypse, to the former president of the Young Republicans of Washington State University, these people came together to intimidate our nation. They sought to blur the lines between legitimate law enforcement officials and their paramilitary cosplay. The sartorially challenged nazis chose white polos and khakis along with homemade shields and tiki torches. Presumably, some were even sporting new haircuts for their big moment in the sun.
These are the new faces of white supremacy in America. Fresh off of Twitter and Youtube, sporting a Pepe pin. Long gone are the days of burning crosses in secluded hollers, these neo-nazis are feeling empowered thanks to the success of glorified trolls like Milo Yiannoupolis and Richard Spencer. Get to know the faces of the angry, young, white men in the pictures from Charlottesville. They’ll be showing up elsewhere.
These white supremacists are not strangers in America. They’ve been here all along. From America’s original sin of the Three-Fifths Compromise through the violence this weekend, these cowards have always had a say. What has changed is that these bigots are no longer forced to the margins of society. They feel emboldened by President Trump, who has given credence to the cries to preserve their twisted version of an American national identity. They have seen the executive actions on immigration restriction, read the reports of crimes committed by immigrants, listened to the President rail against foreign trade, and the curtailing or LGBTQ rights in America; and they have been stoked into a frenzy.
They’ve listened to the President accept endorsements (and later retract) from David Duke. They have watched Trump nominate notable prison chain gang advocate, Jeff Sessions, to the highest prosecutor in the nation. They’ve seen Steve Bannon sit in on cabinet meetings after over a decade crusading against various “globalist” causes. They watched Trump divert funding from groups seeking to eliminate domestic terrorism and white supremacy. They’ve seen this administration allow hate to incubate across our nation, demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement without ever uttering a word of condemnation against white supremacist terrorism.
President Trump’s equivocating statement on the tragedy in Charlottesville is the latest dogwhistle to his white supremacist supporters. When Trump condemned the violence taking place on “all sides”, he once again lumped anti-fascist and other counter protesting groups in with the hateful masses they showed up to oppose. This is a president unwilling to rebuke white nationalism because it serves his political purposes. By not explicitly condemning the actions of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, he has condoned it.
A major false equivalency campaign is taking place in America, attempting to paint anti-fascist activists with the same brush used to color nazis and other white nationalists. This is a mistake. It is exactly what neo-nazis want you to do, because their side is advocating for genocide. According to these white supremacists, people that do not support the neo-nazi cause should be forced to live in oppression if permitted to live at all.
Compare that to the anti-fascists taking to the streets in Charlottesville and in solidarity across the country, who don’t think these neo-nazis should be allowed to espouse these ideals safely in public.
Earlier this summer, the NRA attempted a similar false equivalency, when the NRA released their thinly veiled call for violence against liberals. They did this just after refusing to stand up for the 2nd Amendment rights of Philado Castile. The lobbying group that exists to promote firearms sales has endorsed racial animus as their marketing strategy.
Weapons manufacturing is not the only industry that harbors responsibility for their continued profits stemming from white supremacy. Earlier this week, as some neo-nazis returned to their places of work to discover they no longer had jobs, others were scrambling to their cherished internet communities to gloat or celebrate.
Twitter is one of those places. Much of Twitter’s value stems from the user information harvested from their resources. As a company, Twitter has a vested interest in tracking which of it’s users spread fascist propaganda. They even block these accounts from the view of users in France and Germany. Twitter values their neo-nazi users along with the crisis and controversy they attract.
Twitter isn’t the only tech company with a vested interest in white supremacy. Cloudflare helps these websites stay online and charges a premium for it.
While these communities are being allowed to operate in broad daylight both on and offline, the same can’t be said for those opposing them. The police response to solidarity protests have been more militant compared those assembled to stop the white supremacists in Charlottesville. The majority of terrorist attacks in the United States come from right-wing extremists, however the police response in this case does not indicate as much. A group of protesters armed to the teeth with assault rifles and homemade weaponry is given broad license to public spaces to promote genocide.
The response to this weekend’s events from the Justice Department is to attempt to gather user data on those trafficking certain anti-Trump websites. Trump declared the Alt-Left bears some responsibility for the violence this weekend. He said this despite this being a Unite the Right rally, where white supremacist groups would be gathering. This is exactly what you should expect from a man that rose to political prominence at the head of the Birther movement. He’s been in the profiting off of racial animus from the start of his career in business and it has unsurprisingly carried over to his career in politics.
For decades, idiots in the KKK loved to speak in easily decipherable coded language. They took pride in their codes and their ability to assimilate into society. Now after their brief day in the spotlight, those that attended the rally in Charlottesville are living in fear that they will be outed by @YesYoureRacist. As they return to their hometowns, they have to wonder if they’ll have jobs waiting for them. They’ll have to watch as crowds in cities like Raleigh topple monuments to the Confederacy and mayors around the country, like Baltimore’s Catherine Pugh, plan to move forward with plans to remove similar monuments.
Protesters should set their sights high, because as long as monuments like Stone Mountain stand, there is still fighting that remains to be done. The president giving credence to our shameful collective history does not mean we must do the same.