‘The meaning of Charlottesville’
In the way of righteousness there is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.” (Proverbs 12:28)
There are many things lamentable about last weekend’s violent events in Charlottesville, Va. Foremost among them was the murder of Heather Heyer by an avowed white supremacist, mowing her down with his car.
Then there was the deliberate refusal by President Trump to mention neo-Nazis, the alt right and white supremacists as the cause of the violence that happened. Not that any of us should have been surprised at his refusal to do so. He has been a passive aggressive racist all of his adult life.
For the past eight years Donald Trump has energized the white racists in this country with his leading the “birther movement,” his castigation of immigrants, his accusing Black youth of a crime they did not commit and his stigmatizing of Muslims. As a candidate he sought and received the support of white extremist groups. As the President he installed leaders of the alt right in White House positions, namely Steve Bannon and Sabastian Gorka, Both are alumni of Brietbart News, which Bannon calls “the platform for the alt right.” Bannon is Trump’s Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor while Gorka is a Deputy Assistant to Trump. We all know that birds of a feather flock together.
They are part of Trump’s extremist base that he plays to consistently. What he did not say about Charlottesville is an example of his not wanting to lose that base. Trump did not want to call out what occurred Friday night and Saturday for what it truly was: white extremists celebrating their love for Nazism with all its horrors.
It began Friday night with a torch march through the campus of Virginia University. Singing Nazi songs, yelling racist epithets, hundreds of these Nazi wannabes used the night as a platform for their sick display. They reminded me of children playing at being grown up. I wondered if those involved even knew what being a Nazi means.
It means wanting to murder to the point of extinction any people or group of people you choose, it means an authoritarian government that will control every aspect of your life, it means having a group immorality that desires to enslave people at will, it means accepting the ovens of Auschwitz and Treblinka. It means wanting to own lampshades made out of human skin and ash trays shaped from human skulls; it means barbarism so vile it cannot be described. Trump did not want to call that out?
Just as lamentable was the ever escalating and hostile debate between African American surrogates for Trump and African Americans with an opposite viewpoint. The debates were vindictive, personal and unrelenting. They said things to each other their mothers would have been ashamed of. On one side was a refusal to believe anything Trump had ever said or did was racist or harmful to Black people. On the other side was a refusal to hold in rage long enough to communicate without personal vilification. It seems to me they are representative of America.
This country is more divided now that perhaps ever before. It is because of Trump and because of a refusal to accept that slavery’s long and punishing history impacts us today and to also accept that racism is not just alive and will in American life, but thriving. Not to do means the divisions will never heal. DuBois wrote in the Souls of Black Folk that the “color line” would be America’s greatest problem in the 20th Century. He was a century short; he should have included the 21st Century.
America refuses to have an honest historically based discussion about race. To do so means looking at how racism was perpetrated in every arena of American life. From commerce to politics, from education to housing, from entertainment to athletics. Everything. Already I can hear people saying it’s too much to do.
But if America does not have that conversation with itself, the country will continue to sicken and President Donald J Trump is a symptom of that illness.