Like the rest of the world, my eyes are on Charlottesville right now.
I wavered on whether to write about it – I’m not a political or cultural commentator, and people wiser than I are already discussing, writing, analyzing, and illuminating the topic. But I have a feeling that in order to achieve any sort of true change, and move forward, we have to – at least – speak out. To speak up for the people around us. To speak up for what we believe to be good, and true, and kind.
I’m shocked, because it’s impossible not to be shocked by such things, but I’m not surprised. In the Western world, racial tensions have always bubbled beneath the surface while we pat ourselves on the back for how far we’ve come.
We aren’t talking loudly enough about the socially-sanctioned violence that is being inflicted upon minorities. Now, but also before Charlottesville, from before Trump ever came along – although he seems to have fanned the flames.
So let’s talk. Or, in this case, read.
This is some reading that I’ve been doing, in my attempt to get some clarity about what happened. Hopefully, it’ll resonate with you too.
Charlottesville and the effort to downplay racism in America, by Jia Tolentino
“Charlottesville, Virginia, feels enough like Eden that it’s always been easy to hide a certain amount of blood […] What happened in Charlottesville is less an aberrant travesty in a progressive enclave than it is a reminder of how much evil can be obscured by the appearance of good.”
When Does a Fringe Movement Stop Being Fringe?, by Vann R. Newkirk II
“Even the most feared white supremacists in the lore of Jim Crow were just regular white men […] The disconnect in terms is understandable. It’s one thing to see the Red Shirts and Klansmen as bogeymen of the past and imagine their pogroms and mob clashes in the abstract. It’s another to see them manifest suddenly in violent strength, even if one subscribes to the idea that white supremacy runs deeper than caricatures of hooded rogues, and that its long tendrils have always animated politics and political violence in America.”
Charlottesville Is the America That Donald Trump Promised, by Jay Willis
“Today marks the first fatal terrorist attack to occur on this president’s watch, but it did not come at the hands of that one religious group he denigrates at every opportunity, and whose adherents he wants desperately to ban from entering the country. Instead, it was committed by people who have been living among us all along, quietly waiting for an opportunity that, at long last, has arrived. Hate has always existed in America. Donald Trump just made it fashionable again.”
The Rise of the Violent Left, by Peter Beinart
“Antifa (short for anti-fascist) traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. When fascism withered after World War II, antifa did too. But in the ’70s and ’80s, neo-Nazi skinheads began to infiltrate Britain’s punk scene. After the Berlin Wall fell, neo-Nazism also gained prominence in Germany. In response, a cadre of young leftists, including many anarchists and punk fans, revived the tradition of street-level antifascism.”
What Trump Gets Wrong About Antifa, by Peter Beinart
“Saying it’s (Antifa) a problem is vastly different than implying, as Trump did, that it’s a problem equal to white supremacism. Using the phrase “alt-left” suggests a moral equivalence that simply doesn’t exist […] antifa’s vision is not as noxious. Antifa activists do not celebrate regimes that committed genocide and enforced slavery. They’re mostly anarchists. Anarchism may not be a particularly practical ideology. But it’s not an ideology that depicts the members of a particular race or religion as subhuman [..] If Donald Trump really wants to undermine antifa, he should do his best to stamp out the bigotry that antifa—counterproductively—mobilizes against. Taking down Confederate statues in places like Charlottesville would be a good start.”
“Look, getting a job because your name is Geoff is not the same thing as joining the KKK, but that privilege is precisely the thing white supremacists were working to reassert in Charlottesville. They chanted about not being “replaced.” Their very existence is grounded in insisting on a moral claim to this country as a superior race. They want to continue having every possible advantage based on the color of their skin; that’s practically the mission statement. Most white people are at least aware that they benefit from white supremacy, and yet we stuff down these painfully obvious truths, tending to our cognitive dissonance like a paper cut that won’t heal, worrying more about being called racists than the effects of racism itself.”