As violent, cruel, demeaning white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, murdering a woman and injuring dozens of others in broad daylight, police refused to arrest them and Donald Trump, the sitting President of the United States, who rose to power with their full support, refused to call them out. Of course he refused. They are his most devoted followers and he has taken great care not to offend or isolate them. On Saturday he refused. On Sunday refused. Mind you, he called out Nordstrom’s by name when they stopped carrying Ivanka’s clothing line. Mind you, he called the cast of Hamilton on Broadway out by name when the crowd booed Mike Pence, but he struggled to say a word for days about white supremacy and Neo-Nazis.
Many Republicans, though, did call them out. Almost right away, Senators Orrin Hatch, Marco Rubio, and even Ted Cruz made some of the strongest statements from conservatives I’ve ever read on white supremacy, but one consistent and critically important error was present in so many statements from seemingly well-meaning white men. Those statements, over and over again, said something to the effect that “white supremacy has no place in America” and that “this nation was founded on the principles of faith and freedom.”
That’s a damn lie. It’s as big a lie as a lie can get. It’s historical. It’s insulting. It’s not even in the ballpark of reality. And when civic and business leaders say that this nation was founded on such warm, fuzzy ideals and principles, it reveals many things – chief among them just how far we are from actually dismantling the systems of white supremacy and white privilege in this nation.
Before I was a journalist, I was a country preacher in Georgia and Kentucky. From the pulpit, I liked to use colorful metaphors to explain complex scriptures so that they made more sense for everyday people. If you don’t mind, I’d like to lean on that part of my history for a few moments.
Imagine you’re in your house and you smell a foul stench. You check your refrigerator and realize that you have some spoiled food in there. That must be it! You get ready to throw it away, open up the garbage can, then realize that something foul seems to be coming from there too. So you bag up the foul garbage with the spoiled food and take it out of the house –confident that you have solved the problem – only to come back inside to find it smelling worse than ever. You check the bathroom and flush the toilets in case that might be it. No matter what you do, the smell won’t go away. It’s getting so bad that you can hardly stand it. You are now feeling light-headed. Then, you notice on the television that people are evacuating their homes on a street that looks very, very familiar. It’s your street. On the television, you see a home that looks like your home and a car that looks like your car. On the television screen, smoke is enveloping the home and car that look like they are yours.
The news caption reads, “Neighborhood built on toxic waste dump about to explode.”
The smell that you thought was leftovers in the fridge or fish in the garbage or a turd in the toilet – was none of those things. Your home is built on a ticking time bomb of toxic waste.
Ted Cruz and Orrin Hatch and Marco Rubio each spoke of white supremacy and Neo-Nazism as if it was a turd in the toilet of America that could be easily flushed down with a tweet, wink, and a nod. This is as dangerous a denial of the past, present, and future of this country as we could ever have.
America was not built on kindness or the Christianity of Christ. It was not built on freedom or liberty. This nation was built on white supremacy. Its founders owned human beings that they worked to death and raped at will for sexual pleasure. The indigenous people were slaughtered and terrorized for land and profit. Not for years, or decades, but for centuries, this nation exploited and victimized every single person who was not a white man – denying them all the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – denying them all the right to vote, the right to safety, the right to basic human dignity.
We have women in this nation who were born before women were allowed to vote. A black woman who voted in this past presidential election was the daughter of slaves! Donald Trump’s own father was arrested at a KKK rally 90 years ago this summer. Right here in New York City Nazi’s held a rally in Madison Square Garden.
So don’t tell me this nation was founded on faith and freedom. It was founded on oppression and violence. What we’re seeing in Charlottesville isn’t un-American. NO! That violence and bigotry are as American as it gets.
(Stephen Swofford/Daily News-Record via AP)
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