charlottesville is just the tip of the iceberg: white supremacy is the fabric of america

August 14, 2017
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After the violence this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, following a white supremacists rally where members clashed with counter-protestors and murdered one, the hashtag #ThisIsNotUs began trending on Twitter, popularized by Lady Gaga:

As Gaga exemplified, there is a prevailing notion that white supremacy is somehow not rooted in the very core of this nation, even though it was built by white supremacists. Somehow, bigotry and hatred are interpreted as mere irregularities that can be “expelled” if only for a “true leader.”

This flies in the face of the history of the past six months, what to speak of the history of this nation. As Erin White states, “white nationalists are in the White House for f*ck’s sake,” and this isn’t the first time they have been. Or the second. Or the fifteenth. Or anything even close to that.

It is important to understand the magnitude of this country’s white supremacist roots if we are ever to disrupt them. Cut a weed at the stem, and it will grow right back. Throw a hashtag over the history of American brutality, and Ferguson turns into Charlottesville.

It’s not enough to “pray for true leaders” or even to vote for lesser evils. At some point there requires a reckoning with the fact that at every branch, in every institution, this country is based on ideas that legitimize the theft of Indigenous land and refuse to allow Black people access to humanity. There will always be another white supremacist rally—either in police uniform, with tiki torches or or white hoods—until this is no longer true.

Whitewashed idealizations of the past go hand-in-hand with over-simplified narratives of progress, which are easy to be fooled by when anti-Blackness evolves in form, but the foundation has stayed the same. On the micro level, as I noted last year, “according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, hate crimes stayed fairly stagnant from 2004 to 2012, and the number of hate groups have actually fallen in recent years, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Though relatively higher now, black unemployment rates have almost always been twice that of white rates.” Yes, we operate in a world that is very different than the one our ancestors faced, but that violence is still there, and will remain if it is allowed.

These short-sighted narratives of progress and whitewashed idealized histories both allow for the liberal world to respond with shock, prayer, horror and not much else—to Charlottesville, to Trump, to Gaza—while the world keeps going, and Black and Brown people keep dying. But if we know America is the answer to what happened in Charlottesville, to what happened in November, to what is happening to Black and Brown people across the globe everyday, then the question becomes: How do we create something better in its place?