The News & Record
South Boston News & Record
and Mecklenburg Sun
Home   •   News   •   Sports   •   Classifieds   •   Community   •   Health   •   Entertainment   •   Obituaries   •   Opinions   •   Weather
Advertising | Contact | Register
Advanced Search

New hire takes charge of IDA

Brian Brown,who led Buena Vista office, brings lengthy resume to Halifax position


Preservationists mull effort to save mural on side of old school

Farley receives added jail time in misdemeanor case

Trial goes forward on freezer fraud charge


Park View scrimmage upshot: More work to do





Aftermath / August 15, 2018
This time a year ago, I devoted this space to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and the shocking sight of angry young white men going full Nazi and Kluxer on the university grounds where my son is enrolled as a third-year college student. “[T]he full weight of state investigatory powers and social condemnation needs to be brought to bear against these people,” I wrote then. “Federal prosecutors, police departments, watchdog organizations, opinion leaders, faith communities, ordinary people — we all have a role to play in making sure these fringe elements, and the mentality they represent, are never normalized, never accepted, and never allowed to succeed.”

This was hardly an uncommon sentiment on my part, but neither was it unanimous — as evidenced by our president subsequently declaring that “very fine people” were among those who rallied under the Nazi swastika and flaming torches. (State Sen. Frank Ruff also wrote a disgraceful column at the time blaming the deaths in Charlottesville on “tit for tat” violence by both sides.) As we mark the first anniversary of Charlottesville’s agony, the question arises: how is the fight going against this most vicious element of society, the racist Alt-Right?

From the headlines this week, you’d have to say pretty well. “Unite the Right 2, the follow-up rally to Charlottesville, was pathetic” (Vox); “Rally By White Nationalists Was Over Almost Before It Began” (New York Times); “White nationalists dwarfed by crowds of counterprotesters in Washington” (CNN). Thankfully for the mental health of our household, this year the white supremacist movement spared U.Va. and Charlottesville and instead took its sorry act to Washington, D.C., where organizer Jason Kessler and a couple of dozen cretins briefly showed their faces and then slunk away.

Meantime, movement leaders are in a state of turmoil and retreat, due in no small part to the full weight of social condemnation and investigatory force indeed being brought to bear against them. You may remember a key figure from last year’s Charlottesville rally: Chris Cantwell, a bristling, spittle-flecked musclehead whose hatred of blacks and Jews was memorably captured in a Vice News documentary short. After vowing on camera to “f--- kill these people if we have to,” it turns out Cantwell is nothing more than a loudmouthed coward; when a warrant was issued for his arrest, he quickly turned state’s evidence in an FBI probe of the white nationalist movement. He also has gained unexpected notoriety for crying all over YouTube.

Richard Spencer, who after getting punched in the face on-camera became perhaps America’s best-known Alt-Right leader, has seen his college lecture tours and fund raising websites collapse amid the backlash to his hateful incitements. Kessler, the homegrown organizer of the Charlottesville rally, can no longer command an audience, so thorough is his ostracization. By outward appearances, one would have to say white nationalism is a defanged beast.

Yet appearances can be deceiving. What might be the smartest take on the legacy of Charlottesville was penned this week by Adam Serwer, senior editor of The Atlantic, in a piece titled “The White Nationalists Are Winning.” Surveying the outward wreckage of the movement, Serwer hones in on its quiet success in shaping Donald Trump’s Republican Party. “Despite the controversy over the rally and its bloody aftermath, the white nationalists’ ideological goals remain a core part of the Trump agenda,” Serwer writes. “As long as that agenda finds a home in one of the two major American political parties, a significant portion of the country will fervently support it. And as an ideological vanguard, the alt-right fulfilled its own purpose in pulling the Republican Party in its direction.”

It has indeed come to this. The proud Party of Lincoln, which ended human bondage in America and long ago helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has become the party in which white supremacist belief has made a resurgence. The point is no longer arguable. Republican Party officials and conservative opinion leaders have pushed voter suppression campaigns and marginalized minority political power through gerrymandering and other anti-democratic means, all with the aim of maximizing the Republican Party’s status as a lily-white party in a polyglot country. Then there’s the simple fact that the President of the United States shows himself to be an out-and-out racist on a nearly daily basis. We don’t need an Omarosa tell-all book or tapes with Trump using the N-word to confirm what should be obvious by now.

For all this, the heretofore-unimaginable race-baiting emanating from the White House seems to have damaged Trump not one iota within his own party. As evidence, just look at Republican candidates everywhere who are running towards Trump and not away from him in their primary races. There’s no more striking example than Corey Stewart, the Republican candidate for Senate in Virginia who seems to have never met a white nationalist he is willing to denounce — or unwilling to enlist for his campaign.

“While liberals may have seen the backlash to Trump’s defense of the rally in Charlottesville as heartening,” writes Serwer, “the incident itself seems to have convinced Trump and his allies that they could survive any controversy over the president’s views on race.” While this observation is undoubtedly correct, it remains to be seen whether Trump’s cockiness is warranted. The mid-term elections will provide a powerful answer. It seems nowadays that whenever a hotly contested election comes along, it automatically is elevated as among the most important in the country’s history. The 2018 midterms will actually live up to the billing.

The latest polling in the Virginia Senate race, conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s school of public policy, shows Corey Stewart losing to incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine by 23 points. With luck, the final result will be even more lopsided— it would be sweet justice indeed if Stewart suffered a loss of sufficient proportions to take down fellow Republican candidates for Congress. The Republican Party of Virginia deserves no less for nominating a candidate as odious as Stewart, a point even many conservatives will concede. But let’s set aside horserace analysis for a moment. What has Charlottesville revealed about the soul of America, and where do we go from here?

Last week, The Sun reported the armed robbery of a Bracey convenience store. On our website, an anonymous commenter reacted to the story by describing the black male suspects as “to [sic] damn lazy to pull up their pants and be a man and get a job and work for their needs. This is why I will not hire any of them anymore for our company ….” To be clear, the perpetrators of the robbery deserve zero sympathy for their actions. But the tenor of our commenter’s post — the sweeping generalization of young black men — also must be rejected. And I believe the overwhelming majority of people are ready to do just that, uneasy as most are with abject expressions of racism in the wake of Charlottesville. What remains to be seen is whether this sense of unease translates into tangible action.

“White nationalists win by activating white panic, by frightening a sufficient number of white people into believing that their safety and livelihoods can only be protected by defining American citizenship in racial terms, and by convincing them that American politics is a zero-sum game in which white people win when only people of color lose,” writes Serwer in his Atlantic article. On our front page, The Sun regularly reports the crimes of armed robbers, heroin dealers, serial thieves, household brutalizers, murderers, arsonists, extortionists and all the rest. Membership in this shameful assemblage is open to all — persons black, white, male, female, representing all walks in life. If each of us is to be judged by the deeds of the worst of our kind, none of us will ever be free. Yet somehow you rarely see whites locked out of the job market because a white man somewhere held up a convenience store. We’ve certainly never seen a president who refers to Mexican immigrants as rapists and NBA superstars and other high achievers in the African American community as low-IQ and women as disgusting dogs and pigs. Decent people know this isn’t the way America should be. So what are we going to do about it?

The events in Charlottesville inspired horror and disgust, but their true import won’t be clear until the country renders judgment at the ballot box for a party that draws an inordinate amount of energy from white grievance. Chasing the likes of Richard Spencer out of the public square will be a hollow victory indeed if fellow travelers of the alt-right movement are allowed to keep their perches of power. For every disreputable racist like Spencer, there’s someone like Stephen Miller, the Trump senior advisor whose fingerprints were all over the policy of putting immigrant children in cages, another new low for this horrible White House. The examples go on and on. Do not allow this moment to become normal, the cry sounded in the wake of Charlottesville. A year later, the sense of alarm must remain the same.

Classified Advertising

Buy and sell items in News & Record classifieds.