Our country is at a turning point. This happens maybe once in a generation but the ramifications carry on for generations. I am 66 and I believe this moment in history is more significant than any I have witnessed in my lifetime.
I was raised in New Jersey and have lived most of my adult life in the South so I have personally seen the issues of the Civil War and slavery and the resultant white supremacy from both ends of the historical spectrum. I am even distantly related to one person honored with a Civil War statue. My father helped liberate the camps in Germany following WWII.
Charlottesville revealed that the racism that has simmered just below the surface of our lives, breaking through in episodes largely ignored by whites, has come of age and the white supremacists have tossed off not only their sheets, but also any cloaking narrative, revealing pure racism, anti-Semitism, and ultimately hate. Since Charlottesville, more who speak for these groups have vocalized repugnant ideas with enthusiasm, including vile comments about the young woman who died at the hands of one of these neo-nazi groups.
Emboldened by comments made by an incompetent and narcissistic President, these groups have crawled out from under their rocks and made their presence known. While thoroughly appalled at their rhetoric, their actions, their belief system, I am also partly glad they have finally revealed themselves for exactly what they are. There is no gray area. White privilege can no longer pretend that racial prejudice is some construct of poor people who want to be supported by the large working masses of white people. Racial prejudice is real and exists outside of any such argument. It is toxic. It is reprehensible. And it must finally be repudiated.
Facts matter. The truth matters. It is a fact that the Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery. Maintaining it was over “states’ rights” or “economic issues” is a smokescreen. The southern states wanted the autonomy to refuse the authority of their own federal government regarding this issue and they took up arms against it. That is called treason, not states’ rights.
It is a fact that white supremacy is a belief system whose ultimate goal is the separation and eradication of all non-whites from those who somehow believe they are genetically better than those with a different skin color or religion or belief system. It is also a fact that genetically, few – if any – of us, are purely white, or purely African, or purely Irish, Italian, etc. It is a belief system that is entirely flawed.
It is also a fact that the white supremacists who marched with torches in the night, took up arms for their march in the day. They arrived with long guns, clubs, in combat gears, and desirous of confrontation. Did the protestors who showed up to raise their voices against this group strike back? Yes, that too, is a fact. But making the two morally equivalent shows an utter lack of rational thought.
According to witnesses at the scene, the protesters on the left only struck back to protect those being physically attacked by the white supremacists. This is more equivalent to a bystander throwing a punch at a purse-snatcher.
There are ideals and beliefs worth standing up for, worth being willing to brave violence for. Our service men and women do this day-in and day-out but our civilians do it, too, when they stand against repulsive beliefs and actions. Free speech is not uttered with guns and clubs. It may be true that we must tolerate abhorrent beliefs in others to preserve such speech for ourselves. But there is no requirement to tolerate these beliefs in action. We must make them as socially repugnant as they truly are and we must refuse to normalize such beliefs and actions. The first step in this, I believe, is to remove our current President as unfit for the office he holds and disgraces.
As for the statues, they are nothing but symbols. When more people realize they attempt to immortalize a failed attempt at treason, they will naturally be relegated to the back halls of local museums, complete with notations about their racist past.