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Friday, August 23, 2019

Columns

College town protest shows racists’ true intentions


Students cover their mouths as to protect themselves from the tear gas.| Courtesy of Alexis Gravely

White supremacist groups marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday to protest the removal of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s statue.

Charlottesville is home to the prominent University of Virginia. This city served as the home ground for the latest white supremacy protest, this one dubbed Unite the Right. Make no mistake — their protest was anything but peaceful. It was a riot. There were torches, handmade tear gas canisters and violence.

The white supremacists’ demonstration came to violence upon meeting the counter protesters with handmade tear gas even before the lowest law enforcement came on the scene. However, when too many people of color, namely Black people, congregate together at a gas station, police arrive.

A Black person in the suburbs, a Muslim on a plane or even Latinos driving tends to elicit  police officers because they perceive a threat or disturbance. Brown skin is feared not because of any omnipresent danger, but because white nationalists have to share a country they never built, as they claim they did, and was never theirs to begin with.

CNN reported that James Alex Fields Jr. drove a car into a group of counter protesters, killing one and injuring 19. The New York Times reported there have been pictures of Fields with the Vanguard American, a white nationalist group, but it denies any affiliation with him.

“I’m not surprised, just sad that so many people were injured,” said Uzo Njoku, studio art senior at the University of Virginia.

Fox News reported that a White House spokesperson said that “(Trump) condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course, that includes white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazis and all (other) extremist groups.”

However, in the actual speech regarding Charlottesville on Saturday, Trump blamed violence— which was committed by white supremacists—  on “many sides.” In the recent increase of the predominantly Salvadoran gang, MS-13, Trump had no issue attributing the violence to the gang.

There is no secret as to who started the riots in Charlottesville— they were white nationalists— but like recent outbreaks of hate-driven violence, he opted out of calling them by their name: terrorist.

Even though the two instances are in the same vein of violence, taking an actual stand and stating the name of the terrorist organization does not hold the same weight as condemning the umbrella of violence.

“This was not only a result of me coming to a white school. This is a result of me living in white America,” said University of Virginia psychology senior Madison Tatum.

When it comes to Black Lives Matter protests or any recent protests for oppressed groups, there have been no fatalities from the protesters themselves. It has always started and had an intent for peace—that sometimes escalated to violence from the overreaction of law enforcement— and was never racially charged in the aspect of black superiority.

The protesters in Charlottesville intended to be violent on the basis of white conservation and the fear of a white inferiority complex.

Now, talks of a “White Lives Matter” protest are rumored to happen at Texas A&M University. Both of these incidents are opening the floodgates of multiple protests that could lead to more danger and animosity for not only the social climate of the country, but more importantly, the students on these college campuses which white nationalists appear to be targeting.

“I’m more wary about returning to grounds,” Kahmarrie Robbins, an English senior at the University of Virginia. “I have to be on alert at all times, now more than ever.”

Student safety is at stake. Colleges are marketed as the safest places, and now that is threatened. I don’t think something like this would happen at the liberal beacon that is the University of Houston, but we should use our widespread tolerance and acceptance to stand in solidarity with UVA.

The Charlottesville protest was an effort to protect something a group of people hold dear. But that protection should not be at the expense of compromising the  university students and even the white supremacists own children’s safety.

“I don’t think I’m invincible, but I’ve always gone and done what I wanted in Charlottesville. I never felt unwelcome or threatened,” UVA African American studies junior Tyler Carrington Kernodle said. “I feel like now my town is a battleground for a race riot. I guess I should get ready to explain this part of history to my grandkids.”

Opinion editor Dana C. Jones is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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