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Column: Charlottesville Happens When White Nationalism Rises

The Trickle Down

The Trickle Down is Salute Magazine‘s weekly column by Political Writer Amanda Godula. The Trickle Down is typically a Wednesday weekly column on politics, but in light of the weekend’s events, today is an additional weekend edition.

Charlottesville, Virginia, became the hub demonstrating how white nationalism and racism are still rampant in America. The “Unite The Right” rally, featuring protesters from alt-right groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis, erupted into violence, but turned deadly with the decision of one driver.

Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. was identified as the driver who caused the fatality of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The fatal car crash was recorded hitting a crowd of protesters, and is graphic.

“I thought [the rally] had something to do with Trump.  Trump’s not a supremacist,” Samantha Bloom said to the Associated Press. “He had an African-American friend…”

Bloom is the mother of Fields. And her comments exemplify what’s wrong with our dealings with white nationalism — we keep excusing white extremist behavior and pivot from talking about it.

The alt-right rally depicted a throng of white nationalists carrying tiki torches and shouting racist and nationalistic remarks. Fields protested with National Vanguard, a white nationalist group native to Charlottesville.

Fields told his mother he was attending an alt-right rally. Bloom told the AP, “I didn’t know it was white supremacists.”

But, we know that Fields had the white nationalist tendencies. Fields’s former high school teacher said the man wrote a report “very much along the party lines of the neo-Nazi movement.” Fields’s Facebook account (now deactivated) featured neo-Nazi pictures. Is it really a surprise he was a white nationalist?

Somehow, because a white man has a black friend, he couldn’t be racist. We know racism exists. We know racism exists in many forms. Just because Fields wasn’t screaming racial slurs doesn’t mean he wasn’t a racist. Ask Steve King of Iowa.

We are seeing the rise of white nationalism in America, and it’s being exacerbated by the Donald Trump administration.

Trump’s address on Charlottesville exemplify his inability to disavow white nationalism. He disavows bigotry “on many sides,” while pivoting to high unemployment rates. He failed to condemn the supremacists. This is the second time he’s failed to outright distance himself from white nationalists. In 2016, Trump refused to condemn David Duke, a famous KKK member who endorsed his campaign.

The failure to call out white nationalists as the aggressors, the antagonists, and more aptly here, the criminals, allow different standards for white people’s transgressions. This perpetuates the problem — white people aren’t seen as the same kind of criminals even though the most assuredly are.

The white nationalist movement is not disappearing. In fact, there is a Free Speech Rally, cleverly worded for another white nationalist rally, in Boston on Saturday, Aug. 13.  Protests have already begun against the upcoming rally.

“It’s clear that the far right feels emboldened right now,” Khury Peterson-Smith of Dorchester said to the Boston Herald. “I think that starts with the president. I feel confident that the majority of people in this city and this country oppose that kind of bigotry. I hope we can show that through our presence.”

Right now is the time when Americans are faced with choices — stop the further rise of white nationalists by becoming a united front, or become the enablers.

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