A protest against government removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville on Saturday turned violent. The white supremacist protesters clashed with counterprotesters, leading the governor to declare a state of emergency before the rally even started. A woman died and multiple were injured after a car plowed into counterprotesters.
(The Hill, August 13, 2017)
Frankly, reaction to this incident smacks of a groundhog-day spectacle. I hope this commentary doesn’t contribute to it.
If I hear another political or civic leader calling for a ‘conversation on race,’ I’m going to puke.
(“Ferguson Grand Jury Decides: Officer Wilson Walks,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 25, 2014)
Unsurprisingly, the media are still covering that mayhem in Charlottesville as if it were a latter-day version of the Battle of Gettysburg. Yet, if North Korea were to test-fire another missile today (or if Muslim jihadists were to launch another terrorist attack), they would move on as if it were ancient news.
For the record, I am convinced that confronting neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other racist groups in the streets is tantamount to adding fuel to the pyre of white supremacy. Confrontation only begets the kind of tragedy and folly that is playing out in this case.
The tragedy of course is the loss of life. But even that is being sidelined by the folly of everyone waiting with bated breath for President Trump to denounce these groups … by name.
Except that, when he does — with begrudging, teleprompter sincerity — then what?! Surely you remember the way he played the media and political establishment with his birther nonsense. Given that, you’d think everyone would know that Trump thrives on people begging him to do the right thing. Yet here we are.
Meanwhile, the media are only compounding this folly by making heroes of Republican politicians tweeting outrage. These politicians would have you believe they are shocked and appalled that Trump is failing to do what he spent the 2016 presidential campaign criticizing Barack Obama for refusing to do, namely calling out the terrorism afoot by its name. Never mind that such instances of brazen hypocrisy characterized Trump’s entire campaign, and are doing the same with his presidency.
This is why real profiles in courage would be for these politicians to emulate SpaceX and Tesla’s Elon Musk and Merck’s Kenneth Frazier. These famous CEOs truly deserve praise for publicly disassociating themselves from Trump and his racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and Neanderthal rhetoric and policies. The wonder is that other notable figures have yet to do the same.
But history will judge Republicans harshly for lacking the political courage to disown this presidency, despite having the moral compulsion to denounce this president, repeatedly. And it will judge the likes of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with “special circumstances.”
Many have wondered how Hitler got so many ordinary Germans to become his ‘willing executioners.’ Well, Trump is showing just how at rallies where he whips his supporters into all manner of xenophobic and racist frenzy, preying with every fulmination on their irrational fears of persecution and misguided sense of nationalism. ‘Never again’? I wouldn’t bet on it.
(“The Putin-Trump Bromance,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 29, 2015)
Incidentally, blacks like Trump aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman complain that fellow blacks treat them with nothing but righteous contempt for rationalizing and defending Trump’s racism. This was demonstrated in spades just days ago, when she had the misguided gall to show up for a panel discussion at the National Association of Black Journalists’ annual convention.
Therefore, I am anxious to know if Jews like Trump economic advisor Gary Cohn complain that fellow Jews treat them with similar contempt for rationalizing and defending Trump’s anti-Semitism. For I am hard-pressed to find the kind of public shaming of Jews who support him that blacks who support him suffer daily, and deservedly so.
That said, the best way to deal with these racists groups is to do everything possible to marginalize them to the point of complete irrelevance. Foremost in doing so is to prevail upon whites — who (claim to) oppose them — to use every political, educational, corporate, and media resource at their disposal to empower blacks and the other groups these racists despise.
Media titans have a special duty in this respect. For, as I lamented above, only a perverse interest in profiting off the propagation of hate explains the coverage their network of TV channels give these racist groups.
In a similar vein, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other grassroots movements would do far more to advance their cause (to the extent they can identify it) by galvanizing young people to vote. I mean, am I the only one who wonders why they are protesting (and often rabble-rousing) in the streets nowadays for rights and freedoms their grandparents and forebears won long ago, respectively?
It has been self-evident for over 50 years that protesting in the streets is not going to end racism, stop police brutality, redress the growing gap between rich and poor, or empower blacks and other traditionally disadvantaged groups. Only the systematic acquisition of education and wealth, and a wielding of the economic, social and political influence that acquisition enables, will have any meaningful impact in these respects.
Still, if these grassroots activists had focused on galvanizing young people to vote last year, America would not be stuck with a president who has emboldened white supremacists to act out their racist fantasies.
Again, my initial thought was to forego commenting. After fielding many requests for my take, however, it occurred to me that there might be some worth in publishing what I shared with one of my nieces via e-mail yesterday. Think of the above as a prelude and what follows this e-mail excerpt as a denouement.
[H]ysterical reporters, pundits, and politicians are reacting as if we’re experiencing the “The (Re)Birth of a Nation” — complete with hooded klansmen lynching blacks the way they did in the early 1900s.
Never mind that the images they’re blabbering over plainly show that these events amounted to little more than mostly white knuckleheads having a street fight over a confederate statue, about which most blacks couldn’t care less.
Granted, there’s no denying the perverse fascination of watching one of those knuckleheads ape ISIS terrorists by mowing down people. And such mindless acts are always a ratings boon for mainstream media and clickbait for social media.
But I’m all too mindful that greater violence, causing more casualties, has become so commonplace in cities like Chicago and Baltimore, they no longer warrant media coverage. Not to mention that, because of racial cannibalism among blacks and racist indifference among whites, black-on-black violence has become the elephant in the room of American politics.
You are so right about that clarion call [which the election of Trump represented]. I would only note that Trump gave America nearly two years of dog-whistling notice that this would be the case — complete with rallies erupting in violence the way this neo-Nazi march did yesterday. So yeah, no surprise.
But I would be remiss not to add my two cents on the controversy that triggered this tragedy and folly. It stemmed from Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee from a public park.
As it happens, similar monuments to the Confederacy litter public parks all over the United States. You will not be surprised to find the vast majority across the South. But, given the outrage, you will be shocked to find them everywhere from liberal Boston to the nation’s capital, Washington DC.
This raises two inevitable but troubling questions:
1. What should become of all of the other statues?
2. Why is there so much fixation on monuments to leaders like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who fought to preserve slavery, and none on monuments to leaders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves?
Mind you, I can think of 99 things that bother me about racism in America today, but a Confederate statue ain’t one. If challenged to resolve this dilemma, however, I would think the only politically tenable, even if morally specious, way to do so would be to focus on the Civil War, bearing in mind the following maxims:
• To the victor go the spoils; and
• The victors write history.
It would be for each state legislature to decide whether it wants to continue honoring men who tried to divide the union in order to preserve slavery and its insidious notions of white supremacy. And it would be for the rest of us to decide whether we want to live, work, and/or revel in states that choose to do so (think BDS — Boycott and Divestment, as Sanctions are not practicable).
The Civil War was supposed to marginalize the racist ideology that rationalized black slavery and white supremacy. It failed. Nothing demonstrated this quite like the hundreds of monuments vanquished Southerners erected to honor those who fought and died to preserve this racist ideology. It’s particularly noteworthy that they did this in reaction to and defiance of racial advancement during the period from Reconstruction in the 1860s to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s (aka the Jim Crow period). They erected the Lee statue at issue in 1924, for example.
No doubt you’ve heard their descendants defending these statues and the Confederate flag as proud symbols of their heritage. Beware that they are only referring to this racist ideology, no matter what politically correct spin they put on it. I have written about the myth surrounding this flag, as well as the opportunistic outrage it occasionally incites, in many commentaries, including “Opportunism, Not Activism, Motivated Bree Newsome to Remove Confederate Flag,” July 3, 2015.
So until the next racial flare-up on America’s long and tragic road towards racial truth and reconciliation — “in Order to form a more perfect union…”.