Initially, President Trump responded by issuing statements that did not acknowledge that a protester was murdered and refused to blame the white supremacists who perpetrated the afternoon’s violence and murder. Not only did the President refuse to condemn the hate speech or support the removal of the statue, he gave a coded shout out to the alt-right saying that Americans must “cherish our history.” The only history that is at question in Charlottesville is how we should “cherish” the history of slavery and the Civil War. Finally, nearly 48 hours later, after an almost continuous outcry at his silence and in face of a rebellion among his staff and business supporters, the President made a stiff, angry statement that named white nationalist and anti-Semites as being opposed to American values.
The nation’s Neo-Nazis understood Trump’s original message. The founder of The Daily Stormer website celebrated that President Trump “outright refused to disavow” the hate fueled rally of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and anti-Semites. Another noted, “When (Trump was) asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
Donald Trump’s election was a triumph for the alt-right and white supremacists. Ever since Richard Nixon developed the Southern Strategy, Republicans have built their electoral successes around appeals – some subtle and some not - to the disaffected white Democrats who supported segregation. With Trump’s encouragement, these racial resentments are becoming racist provocations and violence.
President Trump has surrounded himself with members of the white supremacist alt-right. As long as Steve Bannon, Seb Gorka and Stephen Miller are senior advisors in the White House the white supremacists and the alt-right have a direct pipeline to Donald Trump. As long as Jeff Sessions is Attorney General, no person of color, no woman, no immigrant, no dissident liberal can rely on the Federal Government to guard their rights or their lives.
It is time to take the Confederate statues down and to reject the display of the Confederate battle flag. These are explicit symbols of white supremacy. The statues and the Confederate flag represent hatred, racism, and oppression. These symbols were born in treason to represent the slaveholding, secessionist states. Those who pretend today that there is some misty nostalgic Old South that can be separated from the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow are either deluded or hiding their true allegiance. “Heritage” masks hatred.
Words matter! You should know precisely what your Senators, Governors and Representative said about the Charlottesville violence. Did they denounce the “violence on many sides” like President Trump initially did or did they send their thoughts and prayers to the police officers who died and (seemingly as an afterthought) the “young woman” as Vice President Pence did without any reference to who and what caused the violence? Did they denounce the white supremacists and neo-Nazis by name. Trump and Pence are giving the minimum rejection of outright violence while winking and nodding to the extremist right. Many Republicans, as well as Democrats, have spoken directly to the evil ideologies that are responsible for the violence in Charlottesville. If your elected representative is silent they are complicit in violence and murder.
Call To Action
- Call your Senators, Governors and Representatives and thank them if they have made a clear statement against racism, white supremacy and the violence of the alt right. If your elected representative is full of “thoughts and prayers” and “fault on both sides”, tell them straight out they must denounce the ideology of white supremacy.
- If your state or city still displays Confederate statues and flags, demand their removal. Statues to Confederate generals and officials are located on Federal property in Washington, DC. Tell your Senators and Representative that these must be removed. These are not legitimate displays of historic interest.
- Stand up and speak up when you encounter these bigoted acts and opinions in your daily life. Silence is acquiescence in the workplace as well as in the halls of Congress. We must stand together now or be condemned to unending compromise and accommodation with the forces of racism and oppression.