For many, the new image of America isn’t a peaceful one; it’s one filled with outraged protesters and crowded mobs. To these people, it seems that for a long time, there have been increasing political tensions in the United States of America. In particular, race and racism have continued to prove to be decisive issues for the general populace. From the rise of the Black Lives Matter group to the endorsement of President Donald Trump by a member of the Ku Klux Klan, nearly everyone has had a cause for concern, regardless of what they believe to be morally just. This unease reached its climax on Saturday, August 12, 2017, when a violent group of white-supremacist and neo-Nazi rioters began a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. The ensuing chaos left one dead and at least nineteen injured, and the town of Charlottesville in a state of emergency.
The rally held in Charlottesville was originally intended to protest the removal of a monument of Robert E. Lee. The statue of Lee, who was a general that led the Confederacy during the American Civil War, has stood in the city since 1924. However, in recent years, many individuals and groups, such as the N.A.A.C.P, have requested its removal. Eventually, a vote by the City Council decided that the statue should be removed. From this, controversy arose, as many believe the statue to be part of their history. Thus, the “Unite the Right” rally was born.
But the demonstration quickly became about something more than just the Confederate statue. It was a blatant display of racism and anti-Semitic ideologies. Protesters used Nazi slogans to deliver their message, with several were also screaming “Jews will not replace us”. Combined with the racist rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan, a group which was also present at the protest, the display became a clear message of hatred, covered by the idea that “It’s about heritage”. Confederate flags flew beside swastikas. Regardless of what protesters may have believed their display to be about, it was evident that the true essence of the demonstration was one of intolerance and white supremacy.
When the group of white nationalists was met by counter-protesters of their egregious ideologies, violent clashes between the two groups were sparked. The counter-protesters, comprised of dozens of groups including Black Lives Matter, preached a disdain and disgust for white supremacist concepts, instead vouching for equality and respect for all races. Alongside police, the rally was pushed out of its intended location before white nationalist leaders had the opportunity to speak. Counter-protester efforts turned to tragedy, however, when a car plowed into a crowd of anti-racism protesters. The event left one woman dead, and 19 others injured, in what can be described as nothing short of an action spurred by pure and evil hatred. In all, at least 35 were injured during the violent clashes.
This riot only highlights an ongoing problem of rising racial tensions in the United States. While it is clear that the general populace condemns the disgusting racism and bigotry on display in Charlottesville, the white nationalist movement remains a vocal and influential group in the country. Thus, while the Charlottesville driver has been identified and remains in custody, and while virtually all politicians have condemned the actions of the protesters, the alt-right continues to worry many. For instance, David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK, vowed to “…take our country back,” implying a racist ideology where minority groups are shut out or removed from the nation. Racism has also been a poignant point of discussion regarding president Donald Trump, who has frequently made questionable assertions about Hispanics and other minorities, and may have been the main cause for the rising power held by white nationalists. White supremacist groups are allowed to continue to behave in such an outrageous manner because they face no real consequences, which only contributes to the increasing strains on relations between racial groups.
Even in Charlottesville, white supremacists continue to push their racist rhetoric. Richard Spencer, a white nationalist leader, envisions a predominantly or even entirely white nation. Others push this to even greater extremes, picturing mass deportation or ethnic cleansing. Individuals such as Andrew Dodson, an inventor, and self-described “racial realist”, vow to “give them hell” in Charlottesville. He claims “Our ideas are so powerful, that the cops have to break the law and use violence against us to shut us down. This shows just what an unbelievable threat we are to the system,” and believes the Charlottesville violence to have been a massive success.
What these people fail to realize is that America has long ago surpassed the state of being a white nation – if it ever was one to begin with. The American population has diversified to include people of all nationalities, ranging from those of European or African descent to Asian and Hispanic citizens. They fail to realize that their message of hate is no longer welcome in the United States. They fail to realize that, eventually, the people of America will unite against them and reject their violent ideals; and ultimately, will choose unity over division.