In July 2017, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society invited members of the press to a private conference to discuss a sensitive pair of items from the organization’s collection: a pair of robes that might have originally belonged to founding members of the local Ku Klux Klan, established near Thomas Jefferson’s tomb in 1921.The robes, which the society said were donated in 1993, drew attention when local activists and scholars started asking about them. “It’s probably some old respectable family name which adorns a current Charlottesville building, street or park,” speculated one of the scholars who’d requested more detail on the robes, according to Charlottesville’s Daily Progress. But Steven Meeks, the society’s president, declined to reveal who donated the artifacts. “I will tell you this much,” Meeks said to the newspaper, “neither one of them was a prominent person in the Charlottesville community.”
Tag Archives: Racism
HBO’s prospective series Confederate will offer an alternative history of post-Civil War America. It will ask the question, according to co-creator David Benioff, “What would the world have looked like … if the South had won?” A swirl of virtual protests and op-eds have greeted this proposed premise. In response, HBO has expressed “great respect” for its critics but also said it hopes that they will “reserve judgment until there is something to see.”This request sounds sensible at first pass. Should one not “reserve judgment” of a thing until after it has been seen? But HBO does not actually want the public to reserve judgment so much as it wants the public to make a positive judgment. A major entertainment company does not announce a big new show in hopes of garnering dispassionate nods of acknowledgement. HBO executives themselves judged Confederate before they’d seen it—they had to, as no television script actually exists. HBO hoped to communicate that approval to its audience through the announcement. And had that communication been successful, had Confederate been greeted with rapturous anticipation, it is hard to imagine the network asking its audience to tamp down and wait.
It should not have taken this long. Right now, there are a lot of well-meaning people, people who desperately want to believe in their own goodness, who only opened their eyes to the reality of modern fascism when the world woke up to Nurembergian images of screaming white boys in polo shirts with torches marching on a college town. There’s only so long you can run from reality before it recruits you. It takes a lot to let go of your belief in the system. Moderate conservatives and a fair few market liberals are still clinging with quasi-religious desperation to their faith that the shuddering, mortgaged machine of Western democracy will stop bad things from happening, at least in their town. Many of the same people have persuaded themselves over the years that the young men publishing manifestos and gunning down civilians in cold blood were simply mentally ill “lone wolves.” Many of them doggedly insisted daylight would be the best disinfectant for abhorrent ideas about race and gender, mistaking those messages for some sort of smear on the windscreen of society rather than a fucking tree fallen in the path.
Once, on a cold and turbulent day in south London, I saw a man standing in the middle of an empty street, shouting, “If you won’t speak English go back to your own country” at the nobody there. The wind wailed soft and heartless vowels at him in reply. They were not in English. It had no country.Last week, members of Fedrelandet viktigst, a Norwegian far-right Facebook group had a similar moment. A photo showing three rows of entirely empty bus seats, globularly ergonomic, decked out in clean blue fabric and gently moulded to friendly yellow supports, was posted to the group. It’s quite a haunting image—a still lifelessness, placid Arctic indifference, a place made for humans, but without anyone to be seen. It has meaning. The readers of Fedrelandet viktigst, for their part, were furious. This should never happen. This looks really scary. Disgusting. Tragic. Terrifying. Thirteen thousand self-declared defenders of Western civilisation retching and ranting against six empty seats on a bus: this is everything that’s gone wrong with society, this is why we have to fight. These people, the freethinkers who see through all the bullshit and lies of liberal society, thought that the bus seats were Muslim women in burqas.
No one knew much, but the crowd was growing. We were at the rest stop off Highway 29 between Eden and Pelham, where North Carolina meets Virginia, and everyone was looking for the Ku Klux Klan. It was 8.40am.The day after the election of Donald Trump, the Loyal White Knights of Pelham, a chapter of the KKK with a suitably unhinged website, had announced that they would be holding a victory parade on 3 December. In the weeks since, there had been no word on the Knights’ website or anywhere else about when or where the parade would be. But the initial declaration was perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of what we might call the New Emboldening – a coast-to-coast rise in everyday American racism and bigotry spurred by the rhetoric and election of a billionaire who had taken swipes at certain Mexican-Americans and all Mexicans, certain women and all women, certain Muslim-Americans and all Muslims, all African Americans and all immigrants.In the month after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center had tracked more than 900 incidents targeting non-whites. A Muslim college student in Ann Arbor had been told, by a young white man, to remove her hijab or he would light her on fire. At a Utah high school, two Mexican-American sisters were told by their white classmates, “You get a free trip back to Mexico. You should be happy.”The idea of a Klan rally in this kind of atmosphere was potentially explosive. The KKK had demonstrated a year earlier, in Columbia, South Carolina, and the results had been ugly. Three hundred Klan members had been there. The New Black Panthers had countered with 400 of their own members. In all, there were 2,000 protesters. There were cops in body armour. Ripped Confederate flags. A grandmother with a bloody nose. A Klan member, trying to flee in his vehicle, ran into a lamppost.
Those who have been telling us that Islam, not just revolutionary Islamism, is a lethal threat to Western civilization should now feel satisfied: the President of the United States, and his main advisers, agree with them. In the tweeted words of Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, General Mike Flynn: “Fear of Muslims is rational.” Stephen Bannon, the former executive chairman of the alt-right Breitbart News who is Trump’s chief political strategist and a member of the National Security Council, has stated that the “Judeo-Christian” West is engaged in a global war with Islam.
From grades nine through 11, I was fortunate enough to attend Community High School, a free-thinking smaller public alternative school to the two larger high schools in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I lived from age four until 18. Ann Arbor was and still is a radical liberal town with a proud history of open-minded optimism. I was a 17 year old junior in 1996, and something happened that year that changed my life forever.Our school was within walking distance of downtown Ann Arbor and city hall. As students, we were given permission to spend our lunch breaks and after school time in the midst of Ann Arbor’s small but stimulating street culture. It was a vibrant and dynamic mixture of University of Michigan graduate students, rogue musicians, sidewalk preachers, sketchy odd-ball drifters, and leftover psychedelic hippies from the city’s prime back in the 1960s.
Dopo le elezioni statunitensi e la clamorosa vittoria di Donald Trump sono stati in molti a tirare in ballo nel dibattito pubblico la parola “fascismo”. Durante la campagna elettorale il neoeletto presidente americano è stato via via associato alle figure di Benito Mussolini e di Adolf Hitler. Qualcuno, soprattutto in Italia, lo ha paragonato anche all’ex premier (nonché miliardario) Silvio Berlusconi (che però, va ricordato, ha preso le distanze da Trump) e c’è chi si è spinto a definirlo addirittura un Hugo Chávez di destra, un caudillo del Ku Klux Klan. Tutti questi abbinamenti hanno un tratto in comune, quello di spiegare il fenomeno Trump – e soprattutto il fenomeno dei suoi elettori – con paragoni presi da mondi diversi da quello statunitense.Il leit motiv del dopo elezioni non a caso è stato “stanno tornando gli anni trenta”.Ma è davvero così?
Much of the talk about Europe these days revolves around the return of the nation state, the rise of identity politics and all sorts of geographical divides, north-south, east-west – trends again illustrated by Hungary’s referendum on Sunday.
What’s less explored is Europe’s generational gap: not just the differences between young and old but the way people’s expectations have mutated over time, and how that can create deep frustrations when initial hopes aren’t met. Frustrations will easily breed anti-establishment sentiment, and they can fuel the extremes.