By Marvin A. McMickle,
The march in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a reminder of how deep-seated the reality of racism is in this country.
White supremacist groups gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. In an open-carry state the white supremacists were protected by their own security force carrying rifles. Meanwhile, the police stood on the perimeter and did not intervene until the march was already over.
What do you suppose would have happened anywhere in this country if black protesters showed up carrying rifles to defend their free speech rights? Do you remember Ferguson, MO where the police showed up in riot gear and tanks to confront unarmed, non-violent black protesters?
In Charlottesville no such display of police power was employed. Why? Does the KKK and their armed defenders have rights that are not granted to non-violent black marchers? The racism is not just revealed in the march by the KKK, but also the double-standard of the police response in those two different events.
This is how fascism begins; displays of racial hatred and intolerance that are allowed to go unchecked. If there is not a very strong response by President Trump by firing Bannon and Gorcan, this kind of thing is going to happen again in this country.
The present occupant of the White House and his alt right staff members like Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorcan, and others are creating a climate where this display of hatred continues to occur. The candlelight march of white supremacists the night before was reminiscent of Nazi rallies in Berlin, Germany in the 1930s. This is how fascism begins; displays of racial hatred and intolerance that are allowed to go unchecked. If there is not a very strong response by President Trump by firing Bannon and Gorcan, this kind of thing is going to happen again in this country.
David Duke of the national KKK said that the conflict in Charlottesville was “just what he was hoping for as we make America great again.” He said that just after a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters, sending many people to the hospital.
The next few days are critical in terms of the future of diversity and democracy in this country. I was involved in civil rights marches in Chicago in 1966 with Martin Luther King, Jr. where we were taunted by people waving swastikas and confederate flags. That was more than 50 years ago, and since that time we have never seen anything like this on the streets of the United States. This country was able to elect an African American president; Barack Obama.
I believe this climate of hatred is partly in reaction to the virulent reaction among many whites following the election of President Obama. The election of Donald Trump was a tragic reaction to the progress that our nation was making in the area of race relations.
The fact that First Lady Melania Trump spoke out before Donald Trump is a telling reality. She spoke from the heart. It took him hours to respond, and when he did he never said a word about racism, the march for white supremacy, and the rise of the alt right that includes members of his own staff. He never offered sympathy to the family of the person killed in the tragic crash when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-demonstrators. He used the term “terrorist attack” in other instances when a car plowed into pedestrians. However, in this instance he never made that connection.
His relative silence on these matters is a green light to those who hold to the views of white supremacy and racism. I cannot imagine any American president in my lifetime who would have handled a press conference this badly. I hope the people who voted for Trump realize what they have done to our country!
Marvin A. McMickle is president and professor of Church Leadership at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School