United States

Unpacking Charlottesville: What Transpired, and How

"rude awakening to many Americans that groups like the KKK and Neo-Nazis still exist."

One week ago, a protest in the small town of Charlottesville took the United States by storm. To many foreign onlookers, the violent response to a statue, of all things, might seem exaggerated. But to citizens of the United States, Charlottesville was about much more than a hunk of stone. Here’s why.

Neo-Nazis came out of the woodwork.

First and foremost, the event in Charlottesville–called Cville for short–was a rude awakening to many Americans that groups like the KKK and Neo-Nazis still exist. Every American secondary school education consists of months of learning about the history of white supremacy and racially motivated hate groups. But for a lot of people who live outside of these groups’ reach, these causes seem like ancient history.

Cville was another reminder that this isn’t the case. In fact, there are hundreds of active hate groups in the United States, and while not all of them are racially motivated, a decent chunk of them target non-whites.

It’s about more than a statue.

Robert E. Lee urged a return to slavery and white supremacy.

Many people see the Robert E. Lee monuments as tributes to the time before the Civil War when slavery was legal. But in reality, these statues were constructed during the postwar Reconstruction years as a tribute to the man himself. And while a tribute to slavery is already awful, this added layer might be even worse.

From before the Civil War until about a decade after his death, Robert E. Lee was the figurehead for slavery. Even after the Union declared it illegal, he continued to fight for subjugation through laws, education, and work. As such, his followers constructed statues which became the icon for returning to slavery–not slavery itself, but the fight to go back to it (and man, did the South try hard to get back their precious institution).

So when the educated American looks at a statue of Robert E. Lee, they see more than a pro-slavery icon. They see a message which endures today, a message that demands us to return to the slave trade, to racial segregation, and to white supremacy. Considering America’s god awful race relations, it’s easy to see how Lee’s image could become a powder keg for violence and debate.

It’s about more than a statue.


President Trump didn’t pick a side.

After huge events, American leaders love to tweet little messages of hope, condemn the attackers, and ensure a plan for domestic tranquility. Donald Trump, however, did none of this.

Of course, it’s somewhat expected that President Trump wouldn’t play by the rules and send out a sweet “thoughts and prayers” tweet. But the real shock–and anger–came when Trump essentially endorsed the alt-right attackers by claiming that both sides of the argument have merit.

This was disastrous for Trump on a few levels. First, it confirmed peoples’ fears about the bigotry and racism attached to Trump on a personal level. If the Muslim ban, sexist comments, and Mexican stereotypes weren’t enough to convince a Trump supporter of his horrendous character, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

But on a deeper level, this shattered his relationship with the nation’s industry and commerce, one of the only things holding his presidency together. Companies like Intel and organizations like the AFL-CIO (America’s largest organized labor union) started to pull out of his major conferences in retaliation to his support of the alt-right. This severely limits Trump’s effectiveness when dealing with economic issues, and a few experts are beginning to see signs that Trump might resign because of it.

It’s about more than a statue. 

It’s about rude awakenings, dark history, and broken presidencies. It’s about confirmed fears, terror groups, and racial tension. So next time you see a news article about Cville or a police shooting, or the next racial riot that has yet to occur, remember:

It’s about more than a statue. Always. 

The views expressed in any article affiliated with or published by The Youth Journal are solely that of the original writer expressed in personal capacity and do not in any way represent an official posture of The Youth Journal, any of its staff, its partners or any other entity whatsoever.

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