Charlottesville 2017

As is very clear, white nationalism and adjacent ideologies have seen a massive upswing in recent years. Polarization and racist rhetoric from far right politicians are things commonly cited as reasons for this. These have also embolden white supremacists to carry out violent displays of their racism in events such as the “Unite the Right” riot of 2017, which is the focus of this text.

This whole event originally started with the debate over whether to remove a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. On one side, people argued that the statue was a glorification of this country’s dark past with slavery. On the other side, people argued that the statue should stand because it represents southern heritage. This debate was the reason why racists and white nationalists of all varieties descending upon Charlottesville in 2017. Wielding tiki torches and racist iconography, these people displayed their support for the Robert E. Lee statue. The open and unashamed display of this kind of ideology was enough to shake the Charlottesville community to the core. As we know though, this protest quickly escalated into something far worse. The white supremacist protesters became violent towards those voicing their disapproval of them through counter protests. Emboldened by their hate and the shear number of their group, they verbally and physically assaulted counter protesters. This violence reached its peak when a participant of the white supremacist rally rammed his car into the crowd of counter protestors. Although most that were hit by the car had non-life-threatening injuries, one person was not lucky enough to make it out of this ordeal alive. As a result of being hit by the car that rammed into the crowd, a women named Heather Heyer suffered fatal injuries. This tragic death serves to expose how dangerous right wing ideologies can be.

The Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally was successful in doing exactly what the name says. It united far-right and white supremacist individuals into a more organized movement. This is one of the most damaging effects of the event other than the injuries suffered by counter-protesters. Additionally, the event helped in normalizing the racist sentiments of the alt-right. One can see this as more and more groups pop up and display their views. This kind of ideology has also spread amongst conservative politicians and public figures. Prime examples of these are of course Donald Trump, Lauren Boebert, Kanye West, and Alex Jones. This event has had clear and long lasting negative effects on American politics as whole. It has has set this country on an extremely dangerous path. One that must be correct in order to save our democracy and protect already marginalized groups in the country.

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