The Color of Hate: White Supremacist Riots in Charlottesville, VA & the Consequences of A Presidential Administration Built on the Continued Appeal to White Nationalists

IMG_3505This past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia our country witnessed an explosion of racial hatred and violence on a scope of which the likes this nation has not seen in over a generation. Saturday’s ‘Unite the Right’ white supremacist rally quickly descended into what was essentially a planned deadly race riot and declared an unlawful assembly by law-enforcement as a mob of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, klansmen and white nationalists attacked counter-protestors. The event ended in tragedy when a twenty-year-old white man identified by authorities as Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio, a participant in the white nationalist rally, deliberately smashed his Dodge Challenger into a large crowd of counter-protestors. By the end of the chaos and confusion, nineteen people were left seriously injured and a thirty-two-year-old woman identified as Heather Heyer was killed in the attack.

Let me repeat that: nineteen people are injured and an innocent woman is dead because of the violent actions of an emboldened, hate-filled WHITE SUPREMACISTS. Let that sink in for a moment. In the year 2017, not 1967, 2017, white supremacists and neo-nazis are taking to the streets of this country and deliberately targeting, harming and killing people! This is made all the more infuriating by the fact that all the warning signs for violence and danger were explicitly clear and present yet ignored by the local government of Charlottesville; despite the fact they were well aware of the very high probability for violence from the multitude of documented hate groups known to be taking part in the rally. The ‘Unite the Right’ rally was planned as a protest in response to the city’s decision to remove a statue memorializing Confederate general Robert E. Lee which ultimately was the catalyst that culminated in the dangerous, toxic mix of white supremacists, neo-nazis, klansmen and other unaffiliated bigots and racists who descended upon the city over the weekend starting on Friday night and continuing on into Saturday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement issued nearly a week prior to the rally that the ’Unite Right’ action had the potential to be “the largest single congregation of hate groups in the U.S. in over a decade”. In that same statement the SPLC also further described the type of groups the event was attracting saying, “Hundreds of Alt-Right activists and white nationalist extremists are set to descend on the small community of Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday”. (The ‘Alt-right’ is a broad contingent of racists, white supremacists and neo-nazis, that make up the far-right fringe movement that embraces an ideology of white nationalism, is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist. It is highly decentralized but, has a wide online presence. Followers rail against multiculturalism and what they see as “political correctness.”) The SPLC even concluded by specifically calling hate groups by name that were known to be attending saying, “Unite the Right’ is expected to draw a broad spectrum of far-right extremist groups – from immigration foes to anti-Semitic bigots, neo-Confederates, Proud Boys, Patriot and militia types, outlaw bikers, swastika-wearing neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan members – all of whom seem emboldened by the Trump presidency”. Needless to say, authorities knew well beforehand that the ‘Unite the Right’ rally would likely go down as the largest concentrated gathering of hate-groups in over a generation. In fact, according to KHOU, “police estimated anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 people would attend the gathering.

While these despicable turn of events are disgusting and vile in every sense of the word, it, unfortunately, comes as little surprise to those who have been closely monitoring the state of current domestic affairs in regards to race relations in the country over the past several months and years which have been building up to this moment. Over the past eight months alone, the U.S. has been rocked by a series of hate crimes with increasing frequency carried out across the country by emboldened white supremacists. According to the New York Times, “The Southern Poverty Law Center counted almost 900 incidents of hate or bias in the ten days after the U.S, presidential election, using a combination of news reports and witness testimony. The group counted 1,094 incidents in the first month after the election, and 1,863 between November 9 and March 31st”. Unfortunately, since that cut off date of that report much has transpired in cities and states all across the nation.

Back in February, Adam W. Purinton, a fifty-two-year-old white man, was kicked out of a bar in Olathe, Kansas after patrons had complained that Puritan had taunted and shouted ethnic slurs at two men (Indian nationals: Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani) questioning their immigration status. After being escorted out, Puritan returned to the bar armed with a semi-automatic pistol shooting and killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32 and injuring Alok Madasani along with a third bystander unrelated to the two men. Puritan has since been indicted by a federal grand jury on two hate crime charges as well as a firearm charge in connection to the fatal shooting of Kuchibhotla.

On May 22nd, Richard Collins III, a twenty-three year old African-American man who had recently been commissioned as a U.S. Army second lieutenant and was three days away from graduating from Bowie State University; was fatally stabbed in the chest by Sean Christopher Urbanski a twenty-two year old white man who was a member of a racists Facebook group called “Alt-Reich”. According to the University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell the page was filled with content showing, “extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith and especially African-Americans”. Urbanski has been charged with both first and second-degree murder as well as first-degree assault for the fatal stabbing of Collins.

Four days later on May 26th, Jeremy Joseph Christian, a thirty-five-year-old white man fatally stabbed two men, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23 and Ricky John Best, 53 while severely injuring Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, on a MAX Light Rail Train in Portland Oregon; after he was confronted by the three men for threatening and shouting racist, anti-muslim slurs at two teenage African-American girls who were also passengers on the train. One who was also wearing a traditional Muslim hijab. According to CNN, Christian screamed “Pay taxes!“, “Get the f*** out!” and “Go home. We need Americans here!” at the two girls riding the train before being confronted. Destinee Mangum, one of the girls that was targeted in Christian’s threats, said in an interview with KPTV, “He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia and he told us we shouldn’t be here, to get out of his country. He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should just kill ourselves“. Christian now faces nine charges in relation to the attack which include: two counts of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, first-degree assault, three counts of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of intimidation.

While I could go on, and on meticulously listing and examining even more hate crimes and attacks that has transpired just about every other day in our country; they would still only be a handful of incidents that are a part of a larger trend in a wave of racially motivated attacks carried out by emboldened white supremacists. Which, unfortunately, only barely begins to scratch the surface. The events of this past weekend were simply the crashing of this immense wave of hate and racism, which has been stoked and consistently building since before and after the election of Donald Trump (via the electoral college, Trump lost the national popular vote by a margin of almost three million votes) to the U.S. presidency in the 2016 presidential election.

To make matters worse Donald Trump’s ill-prepared statement on Saturday’s attack did not help quell tensions either, causing further public controversy and outrage. In a press conference following the attack, Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time”.  It’s hard to believe that somebody, even by the standards of a leader as inept and incompetent as Donald Trump could screw up something as cut and dry as condemning white supremacist and neo-nazis by name who commit violence in U.S. streets. In a moment where any other responsible leader would have been crystal clear in condemning hate and the actions of white supremacist domestic terrorists, Trump instead decided to be vague, ambiguous and indecisive; failing to call out white supremacy by name, condemn the attack as domestic terrorism while also insinuating that counter-protestors were somehow the just as responsible and complicit as white supremacists who were targeting, harming and killing people! Trump even had a second chance to redeem himself where he once again failed to vehemently and resoundingly condemn the actions of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Following his remarks Trump ignored shouted questions from journalists asking him, “Mr. President, do you want the support of these white nationalist groups who say they support you, Mr. President? Have you denounced them strongly enough?”. “A car plowing into people, would you call that terrorism, sir?” and “Mr. President, how do you respond to white nationalists who say they are participating in Charlottesville because they support you?”. At a moment where Trump could have made one last feeble attempt at denouncing white supremacy and condemning white supremacist violence, he instead refused to answer, let alone even acknowledge the questions posed from reporters before silently leaving the room. And it is exactly moments like this that reveal Trump’s true character, what his moral fiber is composed of and where his sympathies truly lie. Trump’s initial remarks regarding the Charlottesville attack were not only stupid, half-hearted and underwhelming in every sense of the words; they are also quite frankly dangerous! Because, in a situation like Saturday’s attack, a non-answer such as the one he gave following his speech not only speaks volumes, it speaks louder and clearer than any awkward, bumbling speech the man has ever delivered in his entire life. In fact, Trump’s first initial remarks following Saturday’s attack were so unsubstantial Andrew Anglin, the creator of the Nazi website The Daily Stormer even praised his response for not specifically blaming white supremacists and neo-Nazis for the attack. Anglin said in response to the statement, “He (Trump) didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate on… both sides! There was virtually no counter signaling of us at all. He loves us all. He also refused to answer a question about white nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him”. In fact, Trump’s response to the attack was so tepid and lacking teeth that other white supremacists, neo-Nazis, klansmen as well as a multitude of other already emboldened racists and bigots throughout the country took the statement as a subtle wink and nod in support of their actions at Charlottesville as well. It wouldn’t be until Monday morning, nearly a full forty-eight hours after the attack and remaining silent on the matter after blaming the violence “on many sides”, that Trump once again made a second attempt to clarify himself and the statements he had made two days prior. In a rather poorly planned White House event with the aid of a teleprompter Trump robotically read a prepared statement saying, “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”. Nearly two days after the incident, and following a wave of criticism from the public and other politicians (most notably those within his own party) Trump was finally forced into weakly denouncing white supremacists. It boggles the mind that Trump had to be forced to condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists, arguably one of the easiest and truest things in the world that a half-way decent human being could do. Trump read his prepared remarks (off a teleprompter) like a hostage reading his own ransom note and with the insincerity of a schoolyard bully who has been called into the principle’s office and forced to apologize. And while Trump’s remarks did come off as cold, unenthusiastic and quite frankly insincere, especially given that by all accounts the man has dedicated his life to enabling racism; they did at the very bare minimum force Trump to officially denounce the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who had taken part in the rally and carried out acts of violence against counter-protestors by name.

However, perhaps all too predictably, Trump somehow managed to once again dig himself into an even deeper hole Tuesday. What little damage control Trump was able to muster up in Monday’s address was quickly destroyed barely twenty-four hours later when Trump decided to do an off-script press conference in New York where once again, not only did he make the false equivalence between neo-Nazis and white supremacists with protestors that oppose them. But, also seemed to defend the preservation of confederate monuments and those who willingly ally themselves with white supremacists and white nationalists for the same shared common goals and beliefs. At the press conference, Trump said, “You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group, excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park, from Robert E. Lee to another name. George Washington was a slave-owner. Was George Washington a slave-owner? So will George Washington now lose his status — are we going to take down — excuse me. Are we going to take down statues of George Washington? How ’bout Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? Ok, good. Are we going to take down the statue because he was a major slave-owner? Now we’re going to take down his statue. So you know what, it’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture. And you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo Nazis or the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo Nazis and white nationalists, ok? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You got a lot of bad people in the other group too”. Trump not only pivoted back to his first initial statement made Saturday where he equivocated armed white supremacists and neo-Nazis to counter-protesters, he resoundingly doubled down on it. Likewise, he not only covered for white supremacists and nationalists seemingly giving them an out, but he praised and defended them as victims while insinuating that actual victims were somehow responsible for the violence the Alex Fields Jr. and others had carried out on that day. Frankly speaking, Trump’s statement was one that only a white supremacist could (and did) applaud. David Duke, the former leader of the KKK lauded Trump’s stomach churning remarks in a tweet saying “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa”.

Perhaps, more so now than ever is Trump’s blatant hypocrisy on full display to the entire world see more than at this very moment. Keep in mind, this is the same man who constantly slammed both President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham-Clinton during his run for the presidency for their perceived failure to label terrorist attacks as such. Trump called out both politicians specifically for failing to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism”, most notably during the October 9th presidential debate saying; “These are radical Islamic terrorists and she won’t even mention the word, and nor will President Obama. Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name”. Those are some pretty bold words that have not aged well and stand in stark contrast to the moment in time our country is currently embroiled in. Especially given the fact that the man who currently holds the highest office in the nation can hardly bring himself to condemn white supremacists and neo-nazis, let alone help himself from continually making excuses for them. At this point, one would have to draw the conclusion that Donald Trump either has some kind of severe speech impediment where he can’t say the words, “white supremacy”, “neo-Nazi”, “KKK” or “domestic terrorism”; or that Trump is a white supremacist, domestic terrorist sympathizer.

Unfortunately Trump’s tepid response to decrying the actions of white supremacists and nationalists should come as no surprise seeing that the White House itself currently employees actual bigots and white supremacist at the highest levels of our own government. Steve Bannon, the chief white house strategist, Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior advisor for policy and Sebastian Gorka, Trump’s deputy assistant all have long documented histories as white nationalists and have themselves consistently come under heavy criticism especially given their close proximity to Trump and the immense sway they wield in influencing his decision making. In fact, both the Black, Hispanic, Asian and progressive caucuses have all urged Trump to fire the three in the aftermath of the attack in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend. In a letter drafted to Trump, the caucus leaders expressed their concern saying, “Americans deserve to know that white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis are not in a position to influence U.S. policy. In this time of tumult in our country, Americans deserve a leader that will bring us all together and denounce those who seek to tear us apart”. Concluding, “The ideology and political agenda of these men have no place in the highest office in the land”. While one could hope that these men who arguably should have never been assigned to these positions in the first place would be promptly removed as soon as possible, it’s painfully clear that at this moment for all intensive purposes Trump has no intention of doing so and is not going to alienate his most passionate and loyal support base. (Editor’s note: since the publication of this article Steve Bannon has resigned from his role as White House chief strategist). Trump, has by all measures outed himself as the head grounds-keeper of a sanctuary for racist, white nationalists and far right white supremacist extremists which is very quickly growing wildly out of control. With just about every single one of Trump’s statements and actions since this weekend, he has managed to increasingly reveal himself as a white supremacist apologist, sympathizer and enabler. His cowardice, reluctance and all out refusal to condemn neo-Nazis, klansmen, white supremacists and nationalists is evidence of that.

Let’s be clear about one thing, Donald Trump is not in the business of subtlety. The man is about as gracious and inconspicuous as a bull in a china shop and has not been one to mince words to brazenly, if not inarticulately get his point across when he wants to. By the man’s own words, “I don’t kid”, referring to himself and the seriousness of statements he makes in the press. The man who has been known for his bluntness in just about everything trivial or not was anything but when forced to condemn the violent actions of white supremacists. The truth is we have been here before and this is not the first time Trump has failed to rebuke and distance himself from white supremacists either, not by a long shot. In February of 2016, Trump initially refused to disavow and distance himself after David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan announced his endorsement of Trump. In fact, Trump used the exact same tactic then that he is currently using now to claim ignorance. Back in 2016 when Trump came on CNN’s State of the Union, reporter Jake Tapper asked Trump if he would distance himself from an endorsement made earlier by David Duke. In response, Trump said, “I don’t know anything about David Duke. I don’t know what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacist. I don’t know. I don’t know, did he endorse me, or what’s going on? I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about…If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly, I would disavow them if I thought there was something wrong”. However, this was nothing short of a bold faced lie given the fact that nearly sixteen years earlier in 2000 according to NPR when Trump ended his first attempt at a presidential campaign, Trump cited Duke’s participation in the Reform Party as a significant reason he no longer wanted the party’s nomination. Trump even said, “The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. [Pat][ Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. [Lenora] Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep”. Trump would later on NBC’s Today Show blame a faulty earpiece for his repeated refusals to disavow the support David Duke  saying, “I’m sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad earpiece that they gave me and you can hardly hear what he was saying”. Again, Trump’s blatant lie claiming to have no knowledge of David Duke or the KKK last year is no different than what we are currently witnessing in regards to the Charlottesville attack. Trump’s deflection and sorry half-hearted excuse for not denouncing the KKK and David Duke’s endorsement more swiftly was nothing but a poorly veiled wink and nod to the bottom of the barrel demographic of racists, bigots, xenophobes, and misogynists who make up a significant portion of his most loyal and vocal base of supporters. And once again we are seeing his uncompromising allegiance to this demographic once more bubble up to surface in the most sickening fashion in his refusal to staunchly denounce violent white supremacists. Again I must reiterate, Trump is not tactful enough to be in the business of subtlety. His refusal to condemn and more fervently distance himself from a terrorist white supremacists organization such as the KKK was evidence of that over a year and a half ago. And his continued reluctance to vehemently condemn the so called ‘Alt-Right’, white supremacy and domestic white supremacist terrorism is further evidence of that today! Donald Trump has literally given a platform to white supremacists throughout the entire duration of his presidential campaign and continues to do so days after the terrorist attack in Charlottesville. As the so called ‘president’ he is still reluctant to disavow the white nationalists who support him and continues to make leaps and bounds going out of his way to blame “many sides” for the violence on Saturday.

While Trump’s actions, statements, and rhetoric of the past few days shock and appall many, quite honestly many more of us expected nothing else of a man who revealed himself to us a long time ago. We expected nothing else of a man who kicked off his presidential campaign by broadly stereotyping Mexicans, demonizing them as drug dealers, criminals, and rapists; while promising Mexico would pay for his ridiculous wall. We expected nothing else of man who was sued several times by the Justice Department for denying housing to African-Americans. We expected nothing else of man who incited mob justice which led to false imprisonment of the exonerated). We expected nothing else of a man who ran a campaign promising to enforce an unconstitutional nationwide stop-and-frisk policy. We expected nothing else of a man who said Judge Gonzalo Curiel was incapable of being “impartial” due to his Mexican heritage. We expected nothing else from a man who was the leader of the racist birther movement, which perpetuated the racist lie accusing President Barack Obama of not being a U.S. citizen and therefore, being an illegitimate president. Quite frankly, we expected nothing else of a man who has proven himself time and time again to be a through and through, well documented, bigoted, racist, sexist, xenophobic, hateful human being to act and carry himself as such. Trump won the support of his base and the election by stoking and encouraging the absolute worst, darkest, vile tendencies and sentiments that this nation has to offer, appealing to the most toxic, noxious elements of white supremacy embedded in this country. Donald Trump is a disgrace, plain and simple. He’s a disgrace to the office of the presidency. He’s a disgrace to the White House and he’s a disgrace to every single member of our society. Through his mammoth ego, ignorance, and pandering he has planted the seed for even more potential division and violence from white supremacists in the country who he continues to defend and embolden with his rhetoric with every passing day. Based on the behavior he’s exhibited since before even announcing his candidacy in 2015 it’s apparent he has no intention of abandoning those sentiments and will likely continue to exploit them until either his term is up or he is removed from office.

Let’s get something completely one hundred percent straight, and spell out what Donald Trump doesn’t have the integrity or courage to say. What happened last Saturday in Charlottesville Va. was white supremacist domestic terrorism. People in the U.S. were killed this weekend because of white supremacy and racism. Period. End of story. There are no “many sides” to debate here. Perhaps author Jonathan Odell said it best, “Both sides” did not come armed with long guns. “Both sides” did not come armed with sticks. “Both sides” did not come in para-military gear. “Both sides” did not come with Nazi flags. “Both sides” did not come with Confederate flags. “Both sides” were not giving the Nazi salute, “Both sides” did not drive a car into a crowd of people with the intent of killing and maiming. It was only one side that did that. That side was the one chanting “Make America Great Again”, “Take America Back”, “Blood and Soil”. That side is emboldened by those who talk about both sides being responsible“.

Any cognitively functioning human being can tell you there are no “both sides” in this matter. There’s one side that marched with neo-Nazis, there’s one side that marched with the KKK, there’s one side that marched with white supremacists, there is one side that rammed a car into a crowd of people and there’s one side that killed an innocent woman. And right now there’s one side Trump is currently bending over backward trying to defend and deflect criticism from. What happened last weekend in Charlottesville Va. was white supremacist domestic terrorism, but Trump refused to say that. In fact he refused to even initially acknowledge it, and when forced to condemn it under the pressure of other politicians, even those in his own party he still manage to backtrack and pivot back to his first initial stance after less than twenty-four hours and call participants in the ‘Unite the Right’ white power rally ‘fine people’. If you march with neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and klan members you are not “fine people”. In fact, you are anything but “fine people”. An innocent young woman is dead and dozens more injured because of the actions of a racist, bigoted, hateful white man. Who attended a congregation of hundreds on other racist, bigoted, hateful white men. Who have been emboldened and continue to be coddled by another racist, bigoted, hateful white man who currently occupies the U.S. presidency.

The late great author and poet Maya Angelou once said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”. Trump showed this country a long time ago who he really is and has continued to do so time and time and time again. If there is one thing we should believe from a man that is nothing short of a pathological liar it’s that for all intents and purposes it’s clear that Trump is not going to alienate his most passionate and loyal support base. This country elected a man who openly courted and utilized the forces of white supremacy in order to get elected and now we are all currently dealing with the consequences of that. Donald Trump has made it clear to the whole world, in case anyone is still somehow unsure, that he is, in fact, an unabashed, unashamed, staunch racist. Donald Trump told us who he was from the beginning a very, very long time ago, it’s time the rest of the country still in denial woke up and finally started believing him. The question is, what are we prepared now to do about it?


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