It’s important to note that race tensions and alt-right, white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and any other terms they have coined for themselves, have always existed. However it’s just as important to note that the Trump presidential campaign and now the Presidency of Donald Trump have emboldened and encouraged these types of people to come out of their silence… Ultimately, leading them to showing their faces at large events like the one in Charlottesville, Virginia a couple weeks ago.
This ugly-ness was apparent during Trump’s presidential campaign. We all remember the stories of black men and women being yelled at, pushed out, and even punched by crowd members at countless Trump rallies.
We all see what’s happening, whether it’s on the news or on social media, so instead of giving a breakdown of events here, we want to simply have a conversation on what we feel and have yet to understand. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments.
Michelle: It just so happens that the weekend of the protests in Charlottesville, I was in Virginia. I hadn’t heard anything about it (Charlottesville) on Friday, on Saturday still hadn’t heard anything. I’m not sure if that had to do with me not being on my phone or just me and people around me really not knowing about it.
I later realized after reading articles and being on Twitter that there was a huge protest that went on and more alarming than that, that KKK affiliated people calling themselves neo-nazis and the alt-right. Without even having a full understanding just yet of what the “alt-right” term even meant, I was very uncomfortable and I felt scared.
Jaclyn: I realized pretty quickly that there was something going on. It was just really scary from the get go because the white nationalist protesters were in helmets with armor shield, fully decked out. Those images were very jarring.
For me, it was an immediate reminder of the KKK. The KKK worked a lot with fire and night rallies, so that in itself was really shocking and of course, Twitter was blowing up. There were a lot of raw, real-time images being shown.
I was just sad and didn’t even know what to say. I felt hopeless at first… that there were that many racists out… a lot more than I knew existed or wanted to believe existed. I mean, we’re talking about Neo-nazis in 2017. It’s still something we’re dealing with and obviously hasn’t gone away. It’s not like this is the first time this has happened because this uglyness has been around forever. The struggle that black people and people of color deal with those that are so racist they don’t want anyone besides white people in the country.
With Trump coming into office, a seemingly racist guy, it has just pumped up the volume on what they’re saying. With his Presidency and even with his campaign, it really ignited them. This means vouching for him, wanting him to win, The Richard Spencer and David Duke’s of the world really wanting him to get elected.
And it’s just seems to be getting worse.
M: I think there were red flags early on in his campaign, as you just said, KKK affiliated people were very early supporters of Trump. A forecast of his Presidency was going to lead to huge racial tensions that already exists but they’re going to be heightened. They’re going to come out of their blogs and forums, they’re going to come out say “hey, if the President is OK with this then maybe what I’m thinking isn’t so crazy, maybe now is the time to step up.”
So fast forwarding to when we watched the Vice Documentary (Special Report on Charlottesville), I was nervous. I knew this wasn’t an episode that somebody filmed that happened years ago. It was happening in real time.
Jack, you pointed out why are we even talking about neo-nazis in our conversations and vocabulary but I also didn’t even understand the term Neo-nazi until this happened. I didn’t fully understand the term “alt-right”. The modern day definition of what it means to be a Neo-nazi had never even occurred to me because I didn’t know it’s existence.
I think watching the episode helped me wake up. I like that Vice was imbedded into their day at the rally, hearing what they think about Trump, hearing what empowers them and what the want to accomplish was really awakening. Same goes to hearing what people of color in Charlottesville experience everyday to.
The people of Charlottesville deal with this all the time. They weren’t surprised that this happened, we were, the rest of the country was. Vice served in a great way to tune back in. It effects everyone, every single person. It’s so easy to tune yourself our on things that aren’t happening near you, myself included.
So, where are the lines on what you can and cannot protest because of freedom of speech? In modern day technology where there is very little censorship on what you can and cannot say online, would this rally have happened if people didn’t have access to all these forms of immediate, unfiltered media?
JB: Going back to Obama: We know these groups have been around forever and just the same way we hate Trump being in office now, was probably they same way they felt when Obama was in the Presidency for 8 years. These groups have always been around and they hated (still hate) Obama. They called him a Muslim and not an American.
So that hatred has always been there and we were really naive to think that because Obama was elected President, all these racial tensions were just going to magically go away. This stuff has been here forever, it’s still here. That being said, they must almost feel like it’s their turn now to come out of the woodwork and make their voices heard.
It’s just a reminder that it’s not something we can continue to push under the rug. This country was built on the oppression of black people and people of color. I mean the Native Americans were completely pillaged and murdered it.
I think it’s a reminder that we need to be active and have conversations that maybe aren’t that easy or fun to have. The only way we can try and get to a better place is to work through it and not keep ignoring it.
Michelle: Even if we wanted to, I don’t think there is a way to ignore it anymore. I feel like I haven’t talked to my friends about politics as much as I do now. Us talking about protests in a friend group hasn’t happened until recently. We know this is happening. The next day when you’re commuting and you’re back at work you can see people like “shit, this happened yesterday.” Even if we’re not talking about it every single day, everyone feels it, no matter what “side” you’re on.
Mainly, I think we should also talk about why the White Nationalists feel the need to stand up now. Part of what really stuck with me after watching the Vice episode is that they are concerned with keeping the white race as the majority in this country. It’s a fear of change and a fear of the “white race” becoming a minority, from what I saw in the episode.
JB: Yeah that’s pretty much how I understand it too. Like, what is it that they want to accomplish?
We also watched the Eddie Huang episode where he sits down and has dinner with a White Nationalist; which I thought was really funny that they were at an Asian restaurant having pecking duck, while elaborating on why the white race must prevail… how does that make any sense?
MB: Part of what this White Nationalist was saying in the Eddie Huang episode was that he strongly feels the white race is going to go extinct and eventually be outnumbered. Literally meaning being outnumbered by more immigrants, the bloodline is then going to be less and less purely white.
JB: Exactly. It seemed very clear there’s a commonality of fear, of becoming a minority in a country where they say they’ve built.
Because of the demographics of our country and the way its changing, in another 30-40 years there are people who say they will be the minority because of our immigration and the demographics of this country are changing you can’t deny that. So for them, they’re never been in that position. It’s always been White Men as the superior. Whiteness has dominated everything in this country and even the world. White Europeans colonized other countries, so historically its always been the white race the dominant race and so, they’re so fearful of losing that.
MB: Like you said, white-euro culture has always been dominant. I think as much as it’s present now in political conversations, it’s also always been present in media too. Eastern cultures are obsessed with becoming more white skinned, more American, an more western.
It’s so crucial to point out that this is also a responsibility for media to change the way we idealize people. That’s a huge job for casting in Hollywood to change the way we see people in movies.
Enough change in representation needs to happen so that kids can grow up to say things like “There’s so much diversity on this show”, “We are represented”, and “This girl who looks like me was on the cover!”
It’s all connected and intertwined with each other. If there’s a question on how do we change it then I think there is also a responsibility with white people to denounce White Nationalism and say we’re not all like this, we don’t all think this way, and we can all coexist… When republicans are denouncing it, when conservatives start denouncing it, when more and more of the white race themselves start denouncing it.
Nothing is going to change if everyone doesn’t start speaking out. That’s the only way things are going to change. If you are silent then you are just as responsible. If you are not angry, you are not paying attention.
JB: Talking about people coming out and saying this hate and racism is not right, how about the Boston Rally that happened the weekend after Charlottesville.
The original “free speech” rally ended early because there were so many more counter-protesters, some 20,000 probably more. Boston showed up and it was beautiful. The crowd was filled with white people, latinos, POC’s, gays, straights, lesbians and everyone in between.
I saw a story on twitter of a young black woman named Imani helping Trump supporters out of a crowd that was turning rowdy against them. When asked why, this is what she said:
“You know I don’t believe in this right wing narrative of alt left and how we are crazed and looking to get violent. What better way to show that they are wrong? I couldn’t get through a KKK rally with the same treatment. But we shouldn’t be like them.”