We are in an interesting time in history. We're at another great divide. Historically, America has come through and risen from even the darkest moments of our past, but at what point do we say enough is enough with repeating our historic short comings? You see, we haven't necessarily improved our past's problems so much as disguised them in a modern world. If anything, this weekend's tragic events are an indication of that.
Unfortunately, white supremacy has an extensive history in the US. The first Ku Klux Klan was formed in late 1865, early 1866 in Tennessee by Confederate soldiers as a men's social club. Unfortunately what united the group was the belief that it was their mission to restore white supremacy or in their words, tradition. As more groups emerged, they targeted freed slaves and their allies with violent acts. In 1921, the KKK saw it's second wave and reinvented itself using a business model and paid recruiters to recruit new members. After the groups all but dissolving in the 1940's from a strong external opposition, we saw another resurgence in the late 50's, early 60's in oppositions to the Civil Rights movements. The events this past weekend are proof that white supremacy is alive and well and something has to be done.
We are all guilty of living in a bubble from time to time. For me, it was before Trump was elected President. Living in New York City in an artist community, it was absolutely taboo and frowned upon to even tolerate Trump's agenda or to remain silent while his platform was laced with xenophobia and hate. Around that same time I started online dating and like I saw a ghost, I jumped in my seat a little when my first suitor with a Trump for America filter. I thought his only supporters were of older generations or in middle America, but here in my city that I regarded as a safe place for diversity and progression, were many, many people supporting his hateful rhetoric.
Another wave of naivity came this weekend. When I first read the headlines, I assumed the demographic of this hateful march was older white men misjudging the slow progression of prejudice becoming intolerable as the world stripping them of their "rights", but I was shocked to see that much of the crowd were men between the ages of twenty and thirty. Another misconception I fell short to was that our generation will change things. That we are different, stronger, more loving and accepting than other generations; however, this unsettling fact that so many white supremacists exist in our generation is only further proof that there is so much more work to do.
Here are the facts about how the events of this weekend unfolded:
The white nationalist demonstrations begun Friday evening with the demonstrators yielding lit tiki torches and marching through town. The crowd shouted Nazi slogans, praised President Trump, and yelled other violent racial slanders.
White nationalists supporting the "Unite the Right" rally and counter-protestors gathered in Charlottesville. This quickly escalated to screaming, punching, and releasing of chemical sprays. Men dressed in militia uniforms openly carried large guns. It is known that the rally was organized by Right-Wing blogger Jason Kessler in protest of the city's decision to move the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, from the town.
Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in response to over 6,000 people gathering and in response to the violent acts that unfolded that morning.
The city manager declared a local emergency and police were ordered to disperse from the area after the violence escalated further. The Detroit Red Wings denounced the use of their logo that was manipulated by a Michigan based white nationalist group who just arrived in Charlottesville for the rally. First Lady Melania Trump calls for peace on Twitter, "Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence,"; however, we experienced silence from the President and The White House except for a vague, "We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one," earlier that morning.
Jason Kessler and other speakers at the event leave with security and encourage attendees to leave peacefully after the police ordered that the event disband.
After silence from Trump and The White House since about 10am, Trump addresses America from Bedminster, NJ.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 12: In this handout provided by Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio poses for a mugshot after he allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters killing one and injuring 35 on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Fields faces charges of second-degree murder, malicious woundings and leaving the scene of an accident. The incident followed the shutdown of the 'Unite the Right' rally by police after white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' and counter-protesters clashed near Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed.
A speeding car purposefully crashed into a group of counter protestors killing one and injuring 16 civilians. The victim was just recently identified as 32 year old Heather Heyer and the man responsible for the crime was identified as James Alex Fields Jr. a 20 year old from Ohio. He is currently being held in a Virginia jail. Shortly later, it's reported that two Virginia troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates died in a helicopter crash while patrolling the conflict and aiding civilians.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 12: A man tends a makeshift candlelight vigil for those who died and were injured when a car plowed into a crowd of anti-fascist counter-demonstrators marching near a downtown shopping area August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The car allegedly plowed through a crowd, and at least one person has died from the incident, following the shutdown of the 'Unite the Right' rally by police after white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' and counter-protesters clashed near Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed.
Vigils are quickly organized in Charlottesville and throughout the US to mourn and protest the violent event.
People are as a whole outraged by President Trump's vague response to the issue and his condemning of violence from both sides as equal when one side very clearly showed up to spread hate, with weapons, and incited injuries and death. The lack of support from our nation's leader can be disempowering, but that's where we need to hold ourselves responsible and do our civic duty. Call The White House, call your representatives, be active in this discussion and be active in the change. You'll find the numbers just below this. Though it seems small, the first thing you can do is teach your children, neighbors, friends, and peers that hate is not tolerated. As the Rodgers and Hammerstein song says, "You have to be carefully taught." This kind of hate, racism, and violence is carefully taught, but we can carefully teach our children love, acceptance, and equality.
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