The Black Lives Matter activists and anarchists, the socialists and anti-fascists, the religious leaders and local residents who risked their bodies and their well-being in Charlottesville this month should be celebrated for their courage and praised for their good sense and smart tactics. Violent fascists, neo-Confederates, Ku Klux Klanners, and other racist extremists don’t care about justice or civility or our common humanity. Their express aim is to annihilate anyone who isn’t white, straight, and Christian. And they have made it clear that they are willing to use raw and murderous force to get their way.
How can such people be defeated unless they’re challenged everywhere, always, wherever they show up, whenever they try to “speak”? How will their ideas be rooted out unless fierce dissenters fight them in the streets and in the schools, in the workplace and in the halls of power? The activists who showed up in Charlottesville understand these questions and have made their commitment. They paid in blood for their beliefs.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” said Susan Bro, the mother of the murdered counter-demonstrator, Heather Heyer, at her memorial service earlier this month. “I’d rather have my child, but by golly if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.”
And it has counted, it’s counting now. Heyer’s sacrifice, and the stand that so many of her collaborators and comrades made in Charlottesville, exposed yet again the far right’s homicidal hate and helped accelerate the backlash against the symbols and purveyors of white supremacy in this country. It invigorated an already-potent movement that first burst into national consciousness when Bree Newsome ripped down the Confederate flag fluttering over the South Carolina statehouse in 2015 and that has since gained momentum as groups like Take ’Em Down NOLA force the removal of Confederate statues in the Deep South.
Such monuments are being toppled and defaced at a quickening pace. The names of brutalizers and racists, from Robert E. Lee on down, are being erased from public space. Decent people everywhere are realizing that only engagement, action, and organizing can adequately counter the emboldened Nazis and their sympathizers in Washington, DC, and in the White House.
Nowhere is this anti-racist activity more hopeful or more promising than in the urban hubs of the South itself. From New Orleans to Durham, from Birmingham to Houston, progressives and leftists, led by people of color, are resisting both the historical remnants and present manifestations of the authoritarian racism that has always seethed within this nation.
Across the Country, Toppling White Supremacy
In the wake of the Charlottesville violence, cities, states, and civil-society groups from coast to coast have doubled down on their drive to expel Confederate iconography from their streets and parks and public buildings.