We made it through 2017! But sometimes, it looked like we wouldn’t survive a year that seemed intent on shaking up the status quo. Following President Donald Trump’s election win, White supremacists everywhere removed their hoods, unafraid to publically spout their views. In this installment of The New Normal, Colorlines contributing editor Ayana Byrd examines a nation that is run by a man who defends racially-driven violence.
When Trump was elected, it felt like a low for millions of people. But they had no idea how much lower the country could go. Many people think we nearly hit rock bottom on August 15. On that day, Trump defended neo-Nazis, White supremacists and White nationalists who violently descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, reducing their motives to statue protection and praising them for acquiring a permit. At the same time, he condemned the men and women who came to protest them: “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have a problem? I think they do.”
But as for the other side—the White supremacist side—Trump took a more measured view, saying some of them were “very fine people.” His statement was followed by a collective groan from coast to coast, as people realized they lived in a country where the president sympathized with folks who hate people of color. A country where former Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke thanked him on Twitter for his “honesty and courage” about the “leftist terrorists.”
But Trump is not alone in defending White supremacists. In 2017. In public.
In a June Colorlines piece on “Independent Trumpism”—a movement that brings together neo-Nazis, members of the “alt-right,” patriot movement paramilitaries and Trumpist Republicans—Spencer Sunshine wrote, “Two things set Independent Trumpism apart from usual right-wing politics. First, the group’s rallies are in support of the president, but are organized outside of the Republican Party structure. Second, mainstream Republicans are appearing alongside open White supremacists, especially at events billed as ‘Free Speech’ marches.”
In August, the Washington Post and ABC took a poll and learned that approximately 1 in 6 Americans either support the so-called alt-right or say it is acceptable to hold White supremacist or neo-Nazi views.
Perhaps this is the low. Not Trump’s Charlottesville statement, but that the country is now engaged in a debate as to whether White supremacists are good, bad or just trying to protect statues.