There is only one acceptable response to the white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. That’s to call them what they are: evil.
There is only one acceptable response to the murder of a young woman by a white supremacist plowing his car into a group of counter-protesters during that march, and that’s to call it what it is: domestic terrorism.
Hate is an infection, and if left unchallenged by good people it absolutely will grow and fester. Never let that happen.
Our nation has a long and troubled history on racial issues. We’ve worked hard as a country to move past them, and we must never go backward. That starts with knowing our history and teaching it to our children — at home and at school.
African-Americans were originally hauled to our country in the holds of slave ships, sold as property and subjected to brutal treatment. Our Constitution identified them as only three-fifths human. That’s unconscionable.
Too often, the Confederate flag is treated as a symbol of rebellion or “states’ rights.” But the Confederate flag was flown by states that wanted to leave the Union, and the fight wasn’t over states’ rights in some vague, abstract way. It was the one “right” — the right to keep slaves — that was in dispute. The South lost, and the Ku Klux Klan was the racists’ response. The KKK was founded in 1865, with a deeply evil mission, to violently suppress African-American freedom through a brutal reign of terror. Murder has always been part of the Klansman’s terror toolbox.
Almost a century of violence and discrimination would follow before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. America has taken great strides since then, but racism remains.
White Americans — all immigrants from other places, by the way — pushed Native Americans off their lands, made and broke treaties, forced many on the bitter Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. No sooner did each successive wave of immigrants get settled than it started to discriminate against the next group — and discrimination against immigrants continues today.
We sent Japanese-Americans to internment camps during World War II, a shameful act that’s often overlooked when we’re telling our heroic tales of that war. We did have much to be proud of, though, in our fight against the Nazis, who had overtaken Germany and spread unparalleled horror across Europe.
There’s nothing more un-American, more unpatriotic, than to carry the flags of this nation’s enemies, whether Confederate or Nazi.
To call yourself a white nationalist, as the marchers in Virginia last weekend did, is to advertise that you believe people of color should be expelled, violently, from the places where you live. To assume the label neo-Nazi is to align yourself with a group that murdered 6 million Jews. To proudly display membership in the KKK is to align yourself with a terrorist organization that was formed to intimidate and murder African-Americans in the name of preventing equality. To call yourself “alt-right” is typically an attempt to whitewash your alliance or affiliation with those white supremacist groups.
The chants heard in Charlottesville for “blood and soil” aren’t random. They’re an old Nazi slogan, “blut and bloden,” translated into English. The torches, the war gear, are intended as a threat.
Our commitment to free speech as a nation is important. We do not trust our government to determine for us which speech should be legal, and which should be restricted. Nor should we. An unfortunate side effect of that freedom, however, is that hate groups will use their free speech rights to terrorize minorities.
Which leaves every single one of us with this vital responsibility: We must recognize and denounce this evil when we see it. Loudly, clearly and often.
And so we commend the people who responded here at home by promptly calling an anti-hate rally last week. Let’s all follow their example by challenging hate whenever it rears its ugly head.