Arts Devo

Hatin’ on Nazis

Summer of hate How would you react to any of the following occurrences happening in front of you?

1. A group of college-age white men carrying torches and doing Nazi salutes here on the Chico State campus?

2. Witnessing someone yelling “monkey!” at a black person on the sidewalk?

3. Hearing a clean-cut young Republican advocating “killing Jews” to a reporter who is filming him in public?

4. Someone screaming “Fuck you, faggot!” in your face?

5. A person carrying a swastika flag parading by you down Main Street?

If your answer to each was something along the lines of: “By breaking my knuckles on someone’s face,” your response is in line with that of many good people in this country.

All of the above—and many more heinous and even tragic—incidents were perpetrated by attendees at a “Unite the Right” march (Aug. 11) and an aborted rally (Aug. 12) held in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend. All of it out in the open and recorded on video and shared on the Internet for all of us to witness and remember forever. Add all that to the fact that leaders attending the Saturday rally—a planned protest (canceled before it could start) against the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee—included advocates for so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of America (alt-right poster boy Richard Spencer) and many KKK and other hate group leaders (former Grand Wizard David Duke, to name one), and it comes as no surprise that the demonstrators were met by counter-protesters who exchanged chants, fists and pepper spray with the Unite the Right attendees.

I, for one, was proud to see so many bravely facing off against white supremacists. I’m not encouraging violence; I just think that it’s reasonable to respond with force to those who actively engage in attacking their fellow Americans by using the rhetoric and symbols of Nazi Germany and the Confederate South to advocate for their subservience at best, and extinction at worst. A fact that became a sickening reality when a car allegedly driven by a man who was photographed earlier in the day with the Unite the Right protesters sped into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one (Heather Heyer) and injuring 19 others.

Even though the swastikas and rebel flags and hate speech remain protected by the First Amendment in America, we can do something about these monuments to hate. Communities can band together and insist on the removal of the painful symbols of oppression from public places. Start with destroying the Charlottesville sculpture, then tear down all of the Confederate monuments (kudos to the city of Baltimore for tearing down four of them this week), rename the streets and buildings and bridges, and demand the Confederate flag be banned from flying over government buildings. That would be a great start toward owning our racist past and a step down the path of realizing the promise of the American experiment; something that seemed so promising during the Obama administration, and has been rapidly diminished since Donald Trump took over.

As for the Nazis, we might want to start taping up our hands, because with our president emboldening the white supremacists who were at the Charlottesville rally by characterizing some of them as “very good people” and equating the counterprotesters with the vile racists they were fighting against, there is surely more to come. History has proven that words will not sway those who want to keep oppressive systems in place. It takes active resistance. As N. D. B. Connolly pointed out in an op-ed in the Washington Post this week, “a half-century ago, nothing less than radical anti-racism could reduce white supremacy to an outlaw religion,” or as he even more succinctly put it, “rock breaks scissors.”