#DefendCville: Introduction to the Aftermath
Shock. Disgust. Horror.The sentiments that are being expressed when confronted with American Nazi's and their capacity for violence.
On August 11th, torch bearing Nazis and white supremacists descended on University of Virginia campus, with plans to march through to the statue of Thomas Jefferson and on to a church where a multiracial crowd was gathering in a prayer service in preparation for the Unite the Right Rally the next morning. When a group of 30 or so anti-racism activists from UVA and Charlottesville surrounded the statue, the crowd of 300 racists attacked them with the tiki torches they were carrying. Police stood by.
#ThisIsNotUs was trending on Twitter on the night of August 12, as reports and images from Charlottesville flooded the internet. A young woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by a white supremacist, following either the example of Islamic terrorists or the call outs by white supremacists and casual bigots of every variety during the spate of highway shutdowns by Black Lives Matter in the last few years. It came to my mind within a few minutes, as I made my way out of the confused, angry, shocked crowd and toward the group I'd been with throughout the day.
Somehow, I can't erase from my mind the number of people who gleefully called out to have protesters run down in the streets, the videos of incidents of pedestrians being hit, and the profoundly vulgar humor so many found in it. Both Fox News and The Daily Caller posted a compilation video of cars hitting protesters, for the amusement of their audience. Of course, all we know about the perpetrator of this act is that he is from Ohio, has a history of violent behavior (towards his mother), was photographed earlier in the day with Vanguard America, in the same white polo shirt and khakis as the rest of the group, holding a wooden shield emblazoned with their emblem and that he apparently has a well known fascination with Hitler and Nazi's among what were his school mates. Whether or not white America wants to admit it, this is us, at least in part, and the other part has been far too accepting of white supremacy at the cultural and institutional level for a few hundred years. The fact that there are 26 foot tall monuments to the defenders of slavery in thousands of American towns and cities, and that the men they represent are glorified in any way is just part of the issue. It's largely a symbolic part of the issue, but it's a symbol of how accepting white America is of it, how far white America will go to defend it, and that these extend politically, socially, economically and psychologically.
Here's what I know, without doubt, without question. I watched a terrorist murder a young woman in the name of white supremacy and its long, very American heritage. I watched medics treat all of the injured, while the 800 or 900 people around them essentially went into collective shock. I watched as police who arrived basically stood around watching and offered no help.
I'd watched through the day as white supremacists and Nazis attempted to intimidate or brutalize people who'd shown up to tell them they were not welcome and their hate wasn't acceptable. Again, police stood by in all cases. A local Richmond VA radio station, captured the descriptions, thoughts and feelings of some of the Richmond residents who went to lend their support to the neighboring city in PSA Charlottesville, Part 1 and Part 2. This, one of the few pieces of video to span all of the events in Charlottesville, was posted in the last few days.
I'd later see much more as video started to trickle out. White supremacists pushing against a police line, without so much as a pepper spray or a single baton swing, a white supremacist firing a gun into a crowd, a group of white supremacists viciously attacking a black man who unfortunately ended up being chased in to a parking garage, and those, aside from a terrorist murdering Heather Heyer with a motor vehicle, are only those to have made their way around the internet at high speed.
Since then, we've had a white supremacist rallies (disguised as a "free speech" rally, as they've taken to doing) in Boston and in Berkeley, both disrupted or prevented by anti-fascist actions. The crowds who showed up to keep the hardcore white supremacists out of their cities proved to be too much, and those white supremacists cancelled their rallies, and decided it was a better idea to stay home, for the most part.
Much of the moderate left leaning media narrative, somehow conveniently forgetting that a Nazi murdered a young woman and injured 30 others, has begun a campaign to paint anti-fascist and anti-racism advocates who have chosen to attempt to disrupt any platform for white hate as a somehow equally destructive, equally dangerous group. It should give anyone pause when The Daily Caller, Breitbart, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic are all somehow conveniently overlooking the fact that white supremacists have been murdering people throughout the nations history, the very recent history included. Outside of murder, the US sees roughly 300 violent attacks inspired by the far right, every year. Right wing extremists have been responsible for more attacks in the US than Islamic extremists since 9/11.
Unicorn Riot, which describes itself as an alternative media collective, dedicated to amplifying voices that wouldn't otherwise be heard in it's "About Us" page, gained access to the chat logs for the planning phases of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. They were clearly planning violence. They even in many cases attempted to convince participants to downplay their racism in order to garner sympathy from the public when they did face counter protesters. At other points, they specifically suggested that some of their participants show up in "Make America Great Again" hats so that the media would be sympathetic to the idea that ant-fascist and anti-racism activists were just attacking "regular Trump supporters."
The journalistic outlets that have held themselves up, and that the moderate center of the country have held up, as the arbiters of the acceptable parameters of discussion and debate, failed miserably in understanding that they were being used. That failure, was in part, because they have failed to find the growing movement of white supremacy and white nationalism as interesting or necessary as story as kind of horse race politics that have led us here. In themselves, these outlets fall victim to the same kind of instilled mindset of white supremacy as the entirety of the culture does, hence, a murderous white extremist doesn't trigger the same level of fear as a murderous brown extremist, even when all of the evidence suggests the white extremists are a far bigger, more dangerous problem. On August 11 and August 12 of 2017, and in the following weeks, the failure of token diversity has been proven complete. It's not hyperbole to say that the election of Donald Trump, the rise in the number of hate crimes nationwide, Charlottesville and the reaction in the last month, are all signs that liberalism is failing, and more quickly than most want to admit.
I'm not sleeping very well this last month. It's been suggested that being witness to a Nazi running a car through a crowd, standing among the injured and pointing street medics to their locations and then later realizing you've witnessed a murder can be the basis of PTSD. It's not my first experience with traumatic violence, so I'm not sure that's it. I think anyone who was there in Charlottesville on August 12 is probably somewhat surprised only one person died. I certainly am. Honestly, I'm also pretty sure that witnessing the murder of Heather Heyer is not the most traumatic part of it either.
Probably the more pernicious trauma has been the aftermath. Those who have shown up, with the full knowledge of the dangers of white supremacy (and these hardcore white supremacist groups, which make no mistake, are separate things) to stand with the people who would be the targets and to face it down and send it packing are being demonized by people in near complete ignorance of the violence it's been perpetrating since long before Charlottesville, have done essentially nothing with their considerable power and cultural reach to stop it, and the now extremely clear danger it presents is both maddening and terrifying.
Apparently, it's a good deal more socially acceptable to enact an armed take over of federal land, threatening a violent resistance of arrest and begging for snacks on the internet than it is to defend the members of your community, your coworkers, friends and loved ones from people who have continuously demonstrated the willingness and desire to do violence to them. I can't shake the feeling that the difference in these cases is that the threat and perpetrators of violence happen to be straight white gentile men, and at least in the case of anti-fascist and anti-racism resistance, the first and most high valued targets of that violence would essentially be anyone but straight white gentile men.
Beyond the media response, Charlottesville has also proven the long held belief among many anti-racism activists that police would rather stand by or protect white supremacists than protect the people they target. There are many hours of video to give proof to that claim now.
Imagine if you would, 1,000 armed black men descending on a tiny American city, who had demonstrated their desire and willingness to harm and murder people who didn't look like them or share their cultural markers, then killed a white woman who had shown up in solidarity with those they threatened? What would the reaction to that look like?
It's become imperative that we ask whether or not the current media products we have available are capable of handling what they are charged with, and have no doubt, they are almost exclusively media products and not journalism, not the high moral "Free Press" mentioned in the "Constitution" so many claim loyalty and an undying love for.
Even as I didn't expect it to be any different really, it was still quite a thing to see the a president decide to equivocate where white supremacists and Nazis are concerned. That he essentially signaled to the country that he wouldn't outright denounce Nazis, but play the game of false equivalence is genuinely frightening. There shouldn't be any doubt at this point that even with Gorka and Bannon gone (but back at Breitbart where he may actually be able to do more damage), the person who currently occupies the Oval Office is a white supremacist, in total. Not the unconscious kind, like so many politicians who believe "racism is over and all these minorities just want special treatment" but the kind who genuinely believes in the supremacy of the white race over all others.
Take that same imaginary group of 1,000 armed black men, descending on a small city, killing a white woman, and consider what the reaction would have been like if Barrack Obama had come out and said, "Both sides." The chances that there would have been a violent outbreak of aggrieved white people across the country are extremely high.
There's been a lot more as well, but some of it really doesn't deserve any kind of actual thought or discussion. Some of it is pure foolishness and stupidity of the worst kind. Much of it does though, and I intend to do that. Writing has often been healing for me, and I do believe that at some level I do need to heal. Not so much from the experience of A12 and the murder of Heather Heyer, but being faced with the fact that in reality, to most of the country, especially white America, the day itself and her death are already meaningless only a month later. That the context of her death, Nazis marching through a college campus with torching the night before one of their number committed vehicular homicide in exactly the same manner as Islamic extremists we've been obsessed with for over a decade, not only didn't help to produce some sense of motivation among the white majority, but almost seemed to be a contributing factor in the rush to forget, these are things I've been consumed with in the last few weeks.
I'm going to be writing a series of pieces about white supremacy, Charlottesville, media, narratives, and the American political landscape. They may come slowly, as this isn't work in the sense that there's a set deadline, needing to get paid, have it on a resumé. It's work in the sense that I feel I need it to be as right as I can personally get it. This is the introduction, because essentially, it lays out why I feel, as a white person, I have any standing to even say anything about it beyond the kind of moral compunction that seems to lead so many other white people to quick conclusions that are either lethally short sighted or just empty. It is not at all lost on me that white supremacy is something that is costing us lives, by the millions if you go back to the very beginnings of the United States, and in the thousands if you even only count them by year. It isn't a thing that is at all distant to me, in part because of Heather Heyer and Charlottesville, and in part because of how quickly we have attempted to assign it enough meaning to feel we can understand it and then move on or maybe it's that we've felt we've assigned enough righteous condemnation to have earned the freedom to move on. In either case, it is abjectly false that we have earned the freedom to move on or that we have the grasp enough to be able to move on in the comfort of knowing what should be done should we face another similar situation. The understanding is shallow at best, misinformed more often than not, and willfully ignorant at worst.
We have done nothing, and that is why I feel this is important to address, to break down into separate pieces and go through more thoroughly. This is going to happen again, and more importantly, those thousands of lives being lost or destroyed every year as the result of white supremacy, in its explicit and implicit forms deserve better, and absent a mass movement to effect the depth and breadth of change necessary to stop that, I can at least attempt to break it down and make it more understandable for other white people, as I have absolutely no doubt the majority of people who are targeted and threatened by white supremacy have no need of me breaking any of this down because they live it daily. The fact is, it may not be you, but #ThisIsUs, and we have to take our place in the effort to combat it, as best we can and know how, and for me, this is part of that effort.