Leadership at the top matters. President Obama preached tolerance and tried to unite America. However, there can be no doubt that Trump’s divisive “Make America Great Again,” “Mexicans are rapists,” “America First” and anti-immigrant policies provide fuel for the Alt -Right groups and prop up his 40% or so base. Regardless, hate groups have been around in America for 100’s of years, often in hiding but frequently raising their ugly faces. Nationally, as well as in Charlottesville and New Jersey, there remain unresolved issues and continued racism.
Fortunately this weekend Charlottesville was spared the threatened Alt-Right march. As seen in the photo above anti-racist activists gathered at Washington Park with a call for continued action and solidarity against white supremacy, and there was only a paltry Alt-Right presence in Washington. The Charlottesville focus was on those injured last August, particularly Heather Heyer who was murdered. Nonetheless, while the City Council voted and the Mayor agreed to remove two confederate statutes (see one on the left), they have been blocked from doing so by a lawsuit. The statues represent nostalgia for the Confederacy’s era but they also now symbolize violence of the “Unite the Right.” The city needs to provide closure on this issue.
At the sprawling University of Virginia in the middle of Charlottesville, the UVA President apologized to the counter-protesters who were attacked by white supremacists last August. He admitted that the University Police Department had failed to adequately respond to the situation. The groups’ demands include that the University pay or waive the medical fees of those injured in the rallies last August and issue lifelong no trespassing bans for all white supremacists. In the meantime with the administration’s new ‘unaffiliated persons’ policies, some feel the rules could have a ‘chilling effect’ on outside voices. So a certain balance for “free speech” is needed.
New Jersey historically is not immune. It ended up becoming the last of the northern states to abolish slavery. Rodman Price, our governor from 1854 to 1857, argued for New Jersey’s supporting the South. You can read about the history of the Ku Klux Klan in NJ. (see left) At least eight White Supremacist groups operating in NJ, and N.J. has neo-Nazi problem. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports overall 17 hate groups in our State, including AC Skins, Vanguard America, Nation of Islam, Aryan Strikeforce, Identity Evropa, and Forzo Nuovo. Today NJ Republicans running for House seats, such as Seth Grossman (CD2) and John McCann (CD5) echo and support Trump’s divisive policies.
Saturday night I went to see Spike Lee’s movie “BlacKkKlansman” just released on the one year Charlottesville anniversary. It is a wild combination of entertainment with romance between two protagonists and a bromance; mystery and suspense; and occasional documentary footage. It powerfully depicts the atrocity of America’s history of slavery and ongoing racism. Even more powerful are the Black student protesters and two cops who aid them. The movie ends with scenes of last year’s horror in Charlottesville.
Two years after Trump’s election and one year after Charlottesville, the Southern Poverty Law Center indicates the alt-right has been afflicted with widespread problems. It explains, “The rally a year ago intended to show the world that white nationalists could unite in the public square, now stands as a testament to the violent nature of the alt-right.” Nonetheless, while this group suffers, the Center points out, “Others step in and take their place.” The need for eternal vigilance and the courage to act remain important.
Preview photo from The Cavalier Daily and Ku Klux Klan photo from NJ.com.