In early August, far-right organizations assembled in Charlottesville, Virginia, to demonstrate against the removal of a monument of Robert E. Lee, a renowned Confederate General, from Emancipation Park. The protesters consisted of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups. They were armed and chanted racist and anti-Semitic slogans like “Jews will not replace us” and “one people, one nation, end immigration.”
Counterprotesters, who were made up of anti-fascist coalitions, civil rights activists and local residents, brought with them their own slogans and symbols, too. The rally descended into violence. One man, who was a part of the far-right groups, plowed his car into counterprotesters, tragically killing Heather Heyer and injuring at least 34 people.
There’s a lot to unpack from the dreadful events in Charlottesville, which were no less than an extraordinary display of violent white nationalism in the United States.
Should Confederate statues be expunged from the public sphere? Was the American Civil Liberties Union right in defending the First Amendment protections of the white nationalists who organized the protest? Are the “alt-right” and antifa (short for anti-fascists) both culpable for the violent upheaval in Charlottesville? Do white supremacists have legitimate grievances that deserve serious consideration?
Since I don’t have the space to address every single point, I will focus exclusively on the last question.
Cries of “white oppression” are nothing more than a diversionary tactic. White supremacist claims of “subjugation” and “victimhood” are specious, silly and narcissistic. Consider the fact that these arguments are coming from a demographic that, on average, makes more money, lives longer and lead more satisfying lives, compared to African Americans.
I’ve been trying my best to actually figure out why white nationalists feel disgruntled. Perhaps they found a bunch of people offering them an easy excuse in blaming people who don’t share their skin pigmentation.
I do think there’s truth to the idea that the white working class are facing genuine economic anxiety. However, communities of color have been ruthlessly forced into the same conditions by decades-long prejudice from almost every direction. We should be able to address the concern of a large segment of the American population without having to appease race-mongers.
Every iteration of white identity politics is detestable. And it’s a rather sad reality that President Donald Trump has given these hate groups the impression that he is on their side.