Photographer Ian Frank just took this photo that he titled “Die Nigger” as heard today with his very own ears at the pro-Trump white supremacy rally in #Charlottesville. Featured background: White Supremacists led a torch march thru the grounds of the University of Virginia on Friday, August 11, in Charlottesville, Virginia (Photo: Andrew Shurtleff / The Daily Progress)
The late, great Gore Vidal said that we live in “The United States of Amnesia.” Our fatal forgetfulness flares when white bigots come out of their closets, emboldened by the tacit cover they’re given by our president. We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this weekend has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump.
In attendance was white separatist David Duke, who declared that the alt-right unity fiasco “fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.” In the meantime, Mr. Trump responded by offering false equivalencies between white bigots and their protesters. His soft denunciations of hate ring hollow when he has white nationalist advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller whispering in his ear.
Such an ungainly assembly of white supremacists rides herd on political memory. Their resentment of the removal of public symbols of the Confederate past — the genesis of this weekend’s rally — is fueled by revisionist history. They fancy themselves the victims of the so-called politically correct assault on American democracy, a false narrative that helped propel Mr. Trump to victory. Each feeds on the same demented lies about race and justice that corrupt true democracy and erode real liberty. Together they constitute the repulsive resurgence of a virulent bigotocracy.
This bigotocracy overlooks fundamental facts about slavery in this country: that blacks were stolen from their African homeland to toil for no wages in American dirt. When black folk and others point that out, white bigots are aggrieved. They are especially offended when it is argued that slavery changed clothes during Reconstruction and got dressed up as freedom, only to keep menacing black folk as it did during Jim Crow. The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin. And yet they remain depressingly and purposefully ignorant of what slavery was, how it happened, what it did to us, how it shaped race and the air and space between white and black folk, and the life and arc of white and black cultures.
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They cling to a faded Southern aristocracy whose benefits — of alleged white superiority, and moral and intellectual supremacy — trickled down to ordinary whites. If they couldn’t drink from the cup of economic advantage that white elites tasted, at least they could sip what was left of a hateful ideology: at least they weren’t black. The renowned scholar W.E.B. Du Bois called this alleged sense of superiority the psychic wages of whiteness. President Lyndon Baines once argued, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
We have a bigoted billionaire-cum-president who has done precious little for the white working class whose resentment fueled his rise. They have emptied their ethical and economic pockets in support of him even though he turned his back on them the moment he entered the Oval Office. The only remnant of his leadership they have to hold on to is the folklore of white nationalist sentiment, and xenophobic passion, that offer them psychic comfort if little financial stability.
It is disheartening for black folk to see such a vile and despicable replay of history. Facing this unadorned hate tears open wounds from atrocities that we have confronted throughout our history. It is depressing to explain to our children that what we confronted as children may be the legacy they bequeath to their children as well.
Former Vice President Joe Biden took aim at President Trump’s comments that “many sides” led to violence at a white supremacist rally Saturday (Courtesy @JoeBiden).
It is more dispiriting still to realize that the government of our land, at least in the present administration, has shown little empathy toward victims of white bigotry, and indeed, has helped to spread the paralyzing virus of hatred, by turning a blind eye to what is done in their name.
Now is the time for every decent white American to prove he or she loves this country by actively speaking out against the scourge this bigotocracy represents. If such heinous behavior is met by white silence, it will only cement the perception that as long as most white folk are not immediately at risk, then all is relatively well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could more clearly declare the moral bankruptcy of our country.
✻ STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON WHITE SUPREMACIST ATTACK IN CHARLOTTESVILLE | Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
✻ Donald Trump Finally Breaks Silence After White Nationalist Charlottesville Rally -By Emma Stefansky | The New Yorker
✻ Trump Lit the Torches of White Supremacy in Charlottesville. We Must Extinguish Them -By Petula | Washington Post Dvorak
✻ The Hoods Are Off -By Matt Thompson | The Atlantic
✻ Trump Babbles in the Face of Tragedy -By Michael Gerson | Washington Post
✻ ‘This Is un-American.’ Politicians on Both Sides of the Aisle Rebuke Charlottesville Violence -By Jennifer Calfas | TIME Magazine
✻ Why Won’t Trump Call Out Radical White Terrorism? -By Jeffrey Goldberg | The Atlantic
✻ There Are Only Two Sides to Charlottesville. Trump Is on the Wrong One -By Christine Emba | Washington Post
✻ Man Charged After White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville Ends in Deadly Violence -By Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Brian M. Rosenthal | The New York Times