By State Representative, Leon D. Young
The despicable spectacle that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend was not only tragic, in terms of the lives lost and injuries suffered, but also tragic in a much bigger sense — in terms of the extreme divide that now separates countless Americans. But, let’s not forget for one moment that this ugly event, to which I refer, was clearly premeditated and then orchestrated for maximum media effect.
Charlottesville became ground zero for the evolving face of the American far right. This hate rally, which organizers dubbed “Unite the Right” assembled the likes of: the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, alt-right activists as well as other hate groups. It was literally a Who’s Who of American evil, which sought to intimidate this antebellum college town.
Charlottesville’s reign of terror began last Friday when white nationalists descended on the University of Virginia campus with burning tiki torches –- conjuring up images of countless Ku Klux Klan rallies and mob lynching of the past. The Friday night marchers chanted various white nationalist slogans, which included derogatory epithets about Blacks, Jews and Gays.
Nominally, the rally on Saturday was organized in opposition to a plan by local officials to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s top general, from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. That plan prompted a similar protest in May, led by the white nationalist Richard B. Spencer, as well as a Ku Klux Klan rally in July. The removal of Confederate monuments has also stirred up anger in other cities, including New Orleans.
However, the forces behind the rally run much deeper than the removal of one statue in Virginia. Right-wing extremism, including white nationalism and white supremacy, is on the rise according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this weekend has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump. Conveniently silent during this unspeakable ordeal, Trump finally responded a day late by offering false equivalencies between white bigots and their protesters. His soft denunciations of hate ring hollow when he has white nationalist advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller whispering in his ear.
In the final analysis, Trump refuses to acknowledge that white supremacists, not social justice warriors, were the ones marching with citronella-filled tiki torches in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend, and ultimately were the ones responsible for the bloody mayhem that ensued. As we have seen on far too many occasions, Trump has a proclivity for calling people out that he finds disfavor with. Let’s not forget that he took pleasure in berating former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for failing to call Islamic radicalism by its name.
In Charlottesville, evil had a name, and it was white supremacy. Trump’s repeated assertion that there was violence “on many sides” speaks volumes about the real Donald Trump and offers a unique insight into what he really thinks.