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Charlottesville demonstrations: Law profs say white society at large bears responsibility

It didn’t take very long for academics to jump on the racial strife in Charlottesville in order to (again) denounce white society in general.

Writing in Aljazeera, University of North Carolina law professor Erika Wilson and University of Detroit Mercy’s Khaled A. Beydoun claim that the white nationalists on display in Virginia yesterday represent “the conspicuous face of a broader
and stratified movement,” one which “includes statesmen, CEOs, and other prominent faces hidden from our gaze but well-positioned in mainstream society.”

White supremacists are “hardly ideological deviants or fringe segments,” the professors allege; indeed, they are “intimately connected” to policies such as opposition to affirmative action, immigration limits, and “suppressing” the votes of minorities (presumably via measures like voter ID).

In addition, “white privilege” was on full display yesterday as the white supremacists’ alleged fear-no-repercussions demonstration proved white society’s “presumption of innocence” and “freedom from collective guilt.”

From the article:

With their faces unmasked and identities uncloaked, the protesters raised their arms and chanted “blood and soil”, in the Nazi tradition, not fearing their association with the hate group and its ideology. The rally highlighted not only the growing normalisation of the white supremacist movement in the United States, but also its intimate synergy with the administrative and institutional leadership in Washington, DC. …

Unfortunately, our historic and present-day treatment of white supremacy gives individuals like the protesters in Charlottesville little reason to be ashamed or fear stigmatisation. As a country, the US has not gone far enough to disrupt or dismember white supremacy as a prominent ideology. Instead, support for white supremacist ideology within the US has historically been permitted to fester nearly unabated.

A concrete example of this is the Confederate flag – a symbol proudly displayed by white supremacists during the Charlottesville protests. The historic significance of the Confederate flag is that it symbolises a faction of defectors who left the Union and went to war to preserve a way of life that included white supremacy, Black subordination and chattel slavery. …

The historic embrace of the Confederate flag reflects our collective failure to stamp out white supremacy as an ideology and, in some ways, contributes to what we are seeing in Charlottesville today. It is easy to condemn Neo-Nazi protesters, but difficult to enact policies that dismantle and divert from white supremacist structures and policy.

Wilson and Beydoun connect the Confederate flag and symbols to those of the Third Reich, pointing out that it’s a criminal offense in Germany to display anything Nazi related.

Hopefully, these law professors remember there’s a little thing called the First Amendment here in this country.

Read the full piece.

MORE: Prof: Trump administration fighting affirmative action ‘reinforces white supremacy’

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IMAGE: Damian Navas/Flickr

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