ACTION ALERT: Charlottesville: Actions and Reactions
August 15, 2017
NationAction & Collier Meyerson / The Nation & Peter Rothberg / The Nation
This weekend was heartbreaking. White nationalists descended on the community of Charlottesville, Virginia, with a message of hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, and terrorism. Heather Heyer, one of the brave protesters fighting back, was killed and 19 others were injured when a white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of demonstrators. Join the continuing fight against the hatred on display this weekend and too often throughout our nation's history.
Here's What You Can Do After Charlottesville
Join the continuing fight against the hatred on display
this weekend and too often throughout our nation's history
This weekend was heartbreaking. White nationalists descended on the community of Charlottesville, Virginia, with a message of hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, and terrorism. Heather Heyer, one of the brave protesters fighting back, was killed and 19 others were injured when a white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of demonstrators.
Encouragingly, thousands of people across the country gathered this weekend for vigils to reject racism and to stand in solidarity with the victims of the violence. Here are some ways you can join the continuing fight against the hatred and white supremacy on display this weekend and too often throughout our nation's history:
1. Donate to help the victims. There are a number of funds set up to support the victims of this weekend's violence. Already, people have raised over $200,000 to support the family of Heyer and over $146,000 for a legal fund for protesters. You can still donate to help Natalie Romero, a counter-protester who was severely injured this weekend (and who does not have health insurance), to help Deandre Harris, who was beaten by white supremacists this weekend (the photo taken of him shortly after the attack has gone viral), or to a medical fund for all 19 injured in the attack on Saturday.
2. Support anti-racist organizing work in Charlottesville. Solidarity C'Ville is a community-defense network of Charlottesville activists that helped organize the protests against "Unite the Right" this weekend. Its website lists a number of organizations that will continue anti-racist organizing in Charlottesville after it fades from the headlines, including the local Black Lives Matter and Showing Up for Racial Justice chapters.
3. Join a national call tonight, August 14, at 9 pm EST to learn how you can defend communities of color from Charlottesville to the White House. The call is organized by the Movement for Black Lives and you can register for it here.
4. Take action tomorrow to protect DACA and immigrant youth. The racist right wing has no doubt been emboldened by the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies of Donald Trump. Tomorrow, August 15, immigrants and allies across the country will join demonstrations to defend DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and demand the protection of all immigrant youth. With the lives of over 1 million people on the line, it is crucial that we all show up. You can read more and find an event near you here.
5. Sign ColorofChange's petition to remove all confederate symbols in the US. White nationalists came to Charlottesville this weekend to rally around a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander.
As ColorofChange puts it, these statues are "an assertion of the continued imposition of white supremacy and its current political power" and taking them down should be "one step among many in sending the message that we are no longer honoring white supremacy at a societal level." You can sign the petition here.
6. Hold your members of Congress accountable and demand that they take action to fight the hate on display in Charlottesville. Indivisible has posted a guide detailing four concrete demands you should make of your members of Congress. They include funding in the national budget for fighting white nationalism, protecting immigrants from deportation, and the expulsion of all Trump cabinet members associated with white nationalism.
Fighting White Supremacy Means
Owning Up to American History
Trump's failure to swiftly condemn
racist violence is appalling.
But he's right that it's always been
part of this country's story
Collier Meyerson / The Nation
On Saturday, the white-supremacist rally "Unite the Right," which brought hundreds of white nationalists and neo-Nazis to Charlottesville, Virginia, garnered a sizable counter-protest. In the afternoon, after the rally was dispersed, a car came barreling down the street, ramming into a group of counter-demonstrators. "It was probably the scariest thing I've ever seen in my life," Robert Armengol, a University of Virginia podcaster, told The New York Times.
"After that it was pandemonium. The car hit reverse and sped and everybody who was up the street in my direction started running." Heather D. Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who worked at a local law firm and had joined the counter-protesters, died. "It was important for her to speak up for people who were not being heard, to speak up when injustices were happening," her mother said on Sunday night in a televised interview.
Later on Saturday President Trump tweeted his condolences to Heyer's family and, in the same tweet, sent his regards to those who were injured, calling the situation "sad!" At a press conference earlier in the day, where he took no questions, Trump said, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides."
This remark has been widely derided, by both Democrats and Republicans, for failing to explicitly condemn white supremacists.
A White House spokesperson later issued a statement reiterating the president's message and naming the racist groups explicitly -- "The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups" -- but the president himself didn't do so until today.
In his comments on Saturday, Trump said something else that has received not nearly as much attention as whether he was calling out hate groups specifically. But it's important to take note. Trump said, "We must love each other, respect each other, and cherish our history."
Some outlets have pointed it out, identifying the call to "cherish our history" as a dog whistle. But calling it a tacit hat tip to his white-supremacist supporters doesn't fully explain the import of this phrase. It's something much more significant.
The justification of white supremacy has often rested on a veneer of civility. Blatant and unabashed white supremacist language has rarely been used to uphold slavery. Instead, the putrid racism that has always lived in America has often been cloaked by depictions intended to make it seem respectable.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Southern slaveholders said the Bible compelled them to hold slaves -- that, in fact, civilizing black people was a good Christian way of "liberating" them from savagery. "Christians across the Confederacy were convinced that they were called not only to perpetuate slavery but also to 'perfect' it. And they understood the Bible to provide clear moral guidelines on how to properly practice it," wrote Thom Bassett in The New York Times.
During the civil-rights movement, segregationists used the country's history as a reason for preserving racism. "This nation was never meant to be a unit of one . . . but a united of the many," aid George Wallace in his famous 1963 "Segregation Forever" speech. "That is the exact reason our freedom loving forefathers established the states, so as to divide the rights and powers among the states, insuring that no central power could gain master government control."
Virginia's Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, spoke Saturday and directly addressed white supremacists, saying, "There is no place for you in America." He expounded on America as a country of immigrants, saying, "Unless you're Native American, the first ships that came to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, and since that time, many people have come to our great country to unite us," the governor said.
"Our diversity, that mosaic tile of immigrants, is what makes us so special, and we will not let anybody come here and destroy it." McAuliffe misses that slaves came to America in very different conditions than those evoked by the "nation of immigrants" phrase. And that is because America was founded on the idea that the white race is superior to all others.
This is white supremacy's home. There is nowhere for those white nationalists to go. White supremacists are of this country as much as the black people are who were brought here on slave ships.
Instead, McAuliffe and all those who condemn white supremacy must acknowledge the country in which white supremacists' ideology develops and takes root: America. That is the first step to their undoing.
On Monday, Kenneth Frazier, the black CEO at Merck, resigned from his position on the president's American Manufacturing Council. "America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred," he wrote in a statement.
Trump fired back at Frazier in a tweet, saying that now that Frazier has stepped down from his post "he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!" Later in the day, the president finally explicitly admonished white supremacists.
"Racism is evil," Mr. Trump said. "And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."
But his censure came two days late and only after he publicly mocked a black man who had served his administration, reducing Trump's comments to nothing more than lip service.
By urging us to nod to our fractious past to validate a stubborn racism woven into nation's history as something to be justified, Donald Trump recognizes that white supremacy is woven throughout American history in the way that McAuliffe, who condemned it, failed to recognize. But in his world, it is not repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans, but inextricably tied to everything we hold dear as Americans.
Trump's comment that we must "cherish our history" is not a condemnation of hate but a vindication of it. He is using an age-old white-supremacist tradition, appealing to civility and America's history to rationalize racism. "Loving one another" and "respecting one another" cannot be held in the same sentence as respecting our history. It is not a history of love or respect.
Collier Meyerson is a fellow at the Nation Institute, where she focuses on reporting about race and politics, and an investigative fellow at Reveal.
The Charlottesville Syllabus
Studying hate is critical to countering it
Peter Rothberg / The Nation
It was encouraging to read that tens of thousands of people rallied in cities across the United States yesterday to protest deadly violence by a mob of Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the day before.
The far-right's open bigotry, coupled with the violence, struck many as a dangerous inflection point. Racial violence has never not been a part of American history, but up until recently racism was seen as something to veil, to obscure. Dog whistles were the thing. Now, everyone hears the sadistic sounds.
The good news is that there are still more of us than there are of them. Far more. My colleague Sarah Arnold has assembled a good list of ways you can stand in solidarity with the victims of this weekend's violence. Sara Benincasa has a great post up detailing important groups on the ground that can really use our support.
The UVa Graduate Coalition also released an invaluable resource in response to the largest fascist gathering in the United States in recent memory: The Charlottesville Syllabus seeks to explore the local historical and contemporary precedents for this gathering, to give it history and context, to denounce it, and to amplify the voices of community members most affected by this "alt-right" occupation of space.
A new and ongoing project, the syllabus is meant to be expanded, revised, and copied. Featuring contemporary and archival primary and secondary sources (articles, books, responses, a documentary, databases, encyclopedia entries) and a list of terms for discussing white supremacy, the document should be useful to educators, parents, and anyone looking to better understand and explain the historical trends that have bought us to Charlottesville.
Peter Rothberg is the The Nation's Associate Publisher.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.