This past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, something terrible happened. White nationalists marched in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Civil War era Confederate statue. They were met with counter-protesters marching against hate and racism. At some point, the violence broke out and culminated in a car ramming into counter-protesters, injuring over a dozen and killing thirty-eight-year-old Heather Heyer.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and say racism is bad. Of course racism is bad. And of course groups like the white supremacists who showed up last Saturday are repugnant and loathsome.
I’m not going to sit here and criticize President Trump for his initial response to the situation. Nor am I going to go on a rant about how it took him forty-eight hours to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis by name. I think the internet, the public, and the media have done a good enough job of that already.
No…what I want to talk about is this:
How about another one?
Still not getting the point yet? Let’s take a look at one more:
I’ve seen memes like this posted all over Facebook in the past year or two. To the people who have actually shared these memes, I have only one thing to say:
You asked for this. The callous attitude expressed by the memes above is what made Charlottesville happen. Republican legislators have even called for legal protections for people who hit protesters with their cars.
This is what you wanted. I hope you’re pleased with yourselves.
And I know someone out there will say it. “It was just a joke. I didn’t actually want protesters to get hit. Stop getting so triggered you snowflake!” Well Kathy Griffin holding up a fake version of Trump’s head was “just a joke”, but I didn’t see many conservatives jumping to defend her free speech rights. Because that’s the world we live in today, isn’t it? It’s all about freedom of speech…until someone says something you don’t like. Then they should just get out of the country, right?
Besides, I doubt it was a joke for everyone sharing those memes. No…I bet there are a few cold-hearted individuals out there who were hoping something like this would happen eventually.
It’s amazing to me how many people will back off when it comes to acknowledging the racism in white supremacy for what it is. And that includes our president. Even though the marchers were chanting things like “white lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us”, people still refuse to call them what they are. It’s as if they’re afraid to acknowledge the fact that these groups even still exist. They keep using euphemisms to describe the groups, as if trying to soften the blow for themselves. It doesn’t matter. They are who they are. And they didn’t just suddenly appear. They’ve always been there. The current political climate has merely emboldened them, made them feel safer in espousing their toxic, hateful worldviews.
And yes, I know people on the other side can be violent as well. That doesn’t excuse what happened. It wasn’t a crazed leftist that hit Heather Heyer. And it wasn’t the left advocating for laws protecting drivers who hit protesters. Any way you slice it, Saturday showed us just how dangerous extremist rhetoric on the right can be.
So please, don’t deflect from the situation by saying “but the left is violent too!” It doesn’t change anything. It’s a false equivalency. Even if it comes out that the counter-protesters engaged in extreme violence or even started the violence (which we may never know due to the chaos of that day), it doesn’t change the fact that the people marching were there to protest the removal of a Confederate symbol, a symbol that stood for a faction fighting to keep an entire group of people enslaved. It will never change the fact that the Confederacy was fighting against equal rights. If all this was really about preserving some kind of heritage, then that’s part of the heritage they are trying to preserve.
I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward. Our president doesn’t seem to know either. He initially blamed “many sides” for the violence before issuing another statement on Monday condemning white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK. But then, just yesterday he returned to his previous statement, blaming what he called the “alt-left” for some of the violence as well. I think we’re standing at a crossroads, and soon we’re going to have to make a choice to decide what kind of future our country will have. Do we continue forward with the progress we’ve been making? Or do we let the country slip back by fifty to a hundred years, back to a time when racism was far more acceptable than it is now?
I know my answer. Do you?
Thanks for reading. Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.