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From the Streets of Charlottesville to the Corridors of the Capitol, White Nationalism is On the March
(BOSTON) The U.S. Far Right has killed nearly 450 people since 1990. Heather Heyer of Charlottesville, Virginia is the latest casualty of White nationalism. We can honor the sacrifice of the dead and wounded by matching their courage in standing down similar rallies planned for the weeks ahead. Equally important, we can defend members of our communities who are under attack. People of good conscience, regardless of party affiliation, faith tradition, or identity should look upon Charlottesville as a call to moral action in defense of humanity and rejection of White supremacy.
Saturday’s Unite the Right rally was designed, over months, to be the largest gathering of its kind in at least a decade, and was successful in bringing together disparate elements of the Far Right. We should reflect on the deep connection between antisemitism and White supremacy and understand why women, people of color, people with disabilities, religious minorities, immigrants, and LGBTQ people are often targeted first. This is bigger than Charlottesville. White nationalism should not be excused as an expression of “hate” or “ignorance;” it is a strategically coordinated movement with a political agenda.
Not all White nationalists dress up in costume and give Nazi salutes. Whether they are chanting “Jews will not replace us” at a torch lit rally or proposing regressive legislation on voting rights, the right to assembly, or other keystones of a liberal democracy, we must stop their momentum. When our President condemns neonazis only reluctantly and temporarily, it’s not courageous; it is too little too late, and only serves to further embolden the Right. It is an open secret that the violent White nationalists on the streets of Charlottesville (and many other cities) were emboldened by candidate Trump’s presidential campaign, which gave voice to many of their own dangerous views. Their support is not only for Trump’s platitudes but also for the president’s policies. So while we welcome the denunciation of White supremacy from various corners of Congress, we require more from our elected officials. We call on them to uphold our common humanity as they consider policy changes to immigration, health care, education, and the equitable distribution of taxes needed to fund vital public services. We need to remain on alert for “law and order” rhetoric used to justify police and state aggression. We have no intention of stopping bigotry on the streets only to suffer its continued codification in the laws of our land.
The ostensibly “extremist” ideas given expression in Charlottesville must not be allowed to make racist federal policy initiatives appear moderate by comparison. As PRA’s late founder Jean Hardisty presciently stated in a 2005 essay “Wrong About the Right”:
The right has not been afraid to propose extreme positions, knowing they will be pushed back to more moderate ones still well to the right of the status quo. We’ve seen this in almost every policy fight since 1980. By boldly taking stands that are far outside the mainstream, the right has managed to pull the mainstream to the right, which is why it is now perceived as speaking for the majority.
The activists, faith leaders, and everyday people who stood up to armed and violent White nationalists in Charlottesville are the heroes of this still-unfolding story. Their courage stands in stark contrast to the cowardice on display in Washington, D.C. Theirs is the moral conscience of a people that refuses to be divided. Who we can be together will determine whether the U.S. protects and advances the principles of democracy, justice, and pluralism or succumbs to the forces that threaten to unmake them.
Saturday, August 19, 2017 will be a National Day of Action Against White Supremacy. PRA will be here, as it has for more than three decades, monitoring threats and revealing what each of us can do to advance justice and democracy in these turbulent times.