Why are people surprised about what happened in Charlottesville this past week? This type of hatred and bigotry is not new by any means and this is not the first time it has been justified as “free speech.”
These white supremacist rallies are not the first, and are unfortunately most likely not the last time people have wielded torches while shouting “Jews will not replace us,” and “blood and soil.” White supremacy is not new. In fact, white supremacy exists within all of our institutions, and has for as long as the United States existed. In Mississippi, the Confederate Flag is part of the state flag, and in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas the state flags have Confederate colors and symbols. These flags function as a normalization of the Confederacy and the horrible atrocities it committed for hundreds of years during the enslavement of African peoples.
The organizer and leader of these two white supremacist rallies, Jason Kessler, went on record saying that he planned on suing for the violation of free speech of his groups. It is absurd to even suggest that rallies including torches and cars crashing into people fall under free speech. Those fall into “clear and present danger,” a reference to a Supreme Court ruling which provides precedent to stop a protest or rally that poses a clear and present danger to people. His statements are insulting to people who have protested in peaceful manners like members of the Black Lives Matter movement.
By calling the acts of domestic terrorism that occurred “free speech,” it is an attempt to normalize what happened at these rallies. Part of this is already normalized and ingrained into our society, but what Kessler wants is to create a society where all of this is completely accepted and completely normal. These white nationalist groups are happy to have President Donald Trump say nothing because it contributes to this normalization. They are thrilled to be under a president who not only believes these events should be normal, but are something that deserves protection. Donald Trump’s response should not be surprising. He has shown the world exactly who he is and what he believes since the beginning of his campaign for president.
It is also not shocking that the white terrorist who drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, was a perpetrator of domestic violence. According to The Washington Post, he beat his mother. The Washington Post has published articles showing how many terrorists are connected, despite different views, but misogyny undeniably plays a role in terrorist attacks. Again, misogyny is not a new thing in the U.S. and with so much overlap there is a strong case to be made for misogyny involvement in the U.S..
So, here’s the thing. Stop being shocked, do not tell people to love and not hate, and do not sit by. If you do nothing you are the bad guy. There is no gray area. If you have wondered what you would have done in situations of oppression and hatred, you are doing it right now. So it is not enough to post on Facebook or Twitter. Now is the time to go to rallies, vigils, and talk to people about how they are contributing to white nationalism. Talk to your families, your friends, and even strangers. Do something to help solve the problem, because if you are white you benefit from white privilege, and if you identify as a man you benefit from male privilege. It is important to use your privilege to put yourself in spaces that may not be safe for people of color and be an activist. In the final Facebook post of Heyer, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”