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America’s Racial Tensions Continue

Charlottesville Protest

Charlottesville Protest

Charlottesville Protest

Charlottesville Protest

Natalya Bomani, Quill Staff Writer

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August 11th, 2017—Charlottesville, Virginia.

While some may have thought this to be another ordinary Friday, coming home from a long day at work and school, then unwinding later in the evening with family and friends, developed into one of the most extensive racially motivated demonstrations we’ve seen as a nation who proclaims itself to be “post-racial.”

The events at Charlottesville unmasked what some may have thought we’ve surpassed—the most explicit forces of prejudice, discrimination, and racism brought upon by extremist groups.

Jason Kessler, political activist of the alt-right, scheduled and organized the Unite the Right rally at the University of Virginia to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park—and people showed up. A crowd of driven, well-coordinated white supremacists gathered around 8pm with torchlights, among them Richard Spencer, one of the most prominent alt-right, white supremacist leaders, to avow for the preservation of the confederate statue. Chants of anti-semitic, anti-black, anti-gay, and misogynistic slogans permeated the air and mirrored those of the 19th century Ku-Klux-Klan and 20th century Nazi Germany.

Protesters marched down to hallowed lawn and stood before the statue of Thomas Jefferson where they met the first group of counter-protesters—a small group of both students of color and white students—who linked arms to face the torchbearers who yelled “You will not replace us” followed by “White lives matter.” Within minutes, chaos erupted for what would come to be two long treacherous days of racial rage, rampage, and death.

Saturday morning brought more clashes. An unidentified militia of white nationalists took to the streets armed with protective gear, guns, and other weapons while a lesser known ideology Antifa—anti-fascists who are a militant non-partisan political movement composed of several autonomous groups with no formal organization—came to fight back with mace and pepper spray, and toxic liquids.

Deandre Harris, a 20-year-old black man, was beaten with metal poles in a parking garage by white supremacists near a police department. Crowds of anti-racism protesters blanketed the streets, along with Antifa, as tensions arose. The vehicle of a white supremacist rammed into the crowd injuring several but also taking the life of counter-protester Heather Hyer.

The violence seemed ceaseless. America watched the horrors splattered on their screens as news panelists reported in awe.

President Trump first responded to the events at Charlottesville on Aug.12 stating “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country.”

But after much backlash and pressure from both Republicans and Democrats to directly condemn white supremacists, Trump appeared again two days later in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House stating, in front of a teleprompter, “Racism is evil—and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

On Aug.15, Trump reverted to blaming both sides while also claiming there were “some very fine people” among white supremacists in a press conference. Trump told reporters “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say it, but I’ll say it right now. I think there’s blame on both sides. And I don’t have any doubt about it.” Trump also equated the statutes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington to confederate statues, posing the question of whether we should take down those statues as well. “You’re changing history. You’re changing culture,” he stated to reporters.

Here at Cedar Ridge, two students had varying responses to the events at Charlottesville.

“I think everyone should be able to have a platform because that’s part of the first amendment right. I do believe that it should be a peaceful platform. I feel like [white supremacists] could have a redirection on their movement,” Cassandra Keating (12) said.

Another student was not as empathetic towards white supremacists and had criticism towards their beliefs.

“I think that neo-nazism is absolutely disgusting because it’s racist in its ideologies and its core has everything to do with violence against people of color, in particular black people. This is absolutely degrading to every person of color in this country that contributes to the economy, society, culture, so I don’t think they should have a platform. It’s not free speech, it’s hate speech,” Gloria Matheson (12) said.

On the issue of confederate statues the students had more to say.

“I don’t think we should have confederate statues displayed in public spaces. Their purpose is to remind black people of their place,” Matheson said. “That’s why people in this country want to keep them—but I don’t think [some white people in this country] know why. I think most of all they just think it’s their culture then when you think about it really, what is the culture? White culture is the oppression of people of color, especially black people.”

The other student disagreed.

“They should still be there because they are still part of our history and that’s something that we have to not repeat and so we want to be able to have those things in public spaces so people are like “this is what we don’t want to do,” Keating said.

Both students’ opinions also differed on the “violence on both sides” and “very fine people of both sides” statements by president Trump.

“I think there was blame on both sides. You can’t have a fight without having two people in it. So they both have blame for the violence. I don’t think any of the people fighting were necessarily right but they had their own intentions and some of them had good intentions, and some people were just caught up in the wrong place. They didn’t mean to get involved in the violence or anything they just randomly got thrown into it and did not go there for that at all and did not want that,” Keating said

The other student challenged these ideas presented by Trump.

“I don’t understand it. I don’t think that even makes sense? Because how are there fine people on the Nazi side when they’re aren’t fine people on the other side of the border of Mexico and they’re all ‘drug dealers,’ they’re all ‘rapists’ and football players who are kneeling? They’re not ‘fine people’? When it comes to what he believes I think it’s very telling that when [Trump] says ‘very fine people on both sides’—that he agrees with them and validates them and that’s the key point of what kindles [white supremacists] whole ideology and what they feel—they feel protected by him,” Matheson said.

White supremacists reemerged in Charlottesville on Oct.7.

According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Americans said racism is a “big problem.” This percentage has increased by eight points and has doubled since 2011.

Racial divisions will continue to persist in America if the problem isn’t addressed.

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