Aug. 12, 2017, hundreds of white supremacists and their sympathizers gathered for a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., led by the likes of Richard Spencer and other white supremacist organizers. That Charlottesville is the home of one of the most prestigious American universities, founded on the principles of slaveholding Thomas Jefferson, should not be lost on us. That the majority of the marchers were white men under the age of 40 should also not be lost on us. Far too many Americans still think the insidious disease of racism is held by only a small handful of Americans of a certain age who they believe will “die off” soon enough. Unfortunately, the events in Charlottesville last year showed us that the foundation of racist practices are embedded in American soil and producing a new generation of hate-filled white supremacists who are willing to kill members of their own race to justify their position in American society.
Viewing the photos of these men with their tiki torches marching down the street yelling, chanting and beating any non-sympathizer in their path was bone chilling to say the least. Witnessing the footage of these protestors beating unarmed Black observers with poles and other weapons while police stood on the sidelines frightened me in ways I did not know existed. Watching a car deliberately plow into a group of innocent people and ultimately killing Heather Heyer truly showed the depths to which this nation has descended in the 21st century. And seeing Black counter-protestors arrested, charged and tried in courts of law for “disturbing the peace” while most of the white supremacist marchers went back to their daily lives as teachers, engineers, law enforcement officers and the like made me disgusted.
On the anniversary of the Charlottesville protests and the subsequent response by the president arguing that there was fault on “both sides,” those in charge feel it necessary to “protect” these racists and their sympathizers by potentially providing exclusive subway cars on the D.C. public transportation system. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
Unfortunately, the current executive in the Oval Office sympathizes and/or identifies with white supremacists, racists, sexists, domestic abusers and serial sexual abusers. We are in a nadir at the moment and the path forward does not seem clear. Far too many elected officials refuse to speak up and speak out, and more and more citizens feel emboldened to engage in blatantly racist practices of calling the police on innocent Black people and people of color just for existing.
If Charlottesville taught us anything, it should be that we must resist this racist tide. We cannot rest in the face of injustice. And we must continue to fight for the country we know we deserve. It is time to unite—against the right.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” the co-host of the new podcast FAQ-NYC and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.