Charlottesville, Virginia has degenerated into a ‘war’ zone. The type of war zone that typically would lead to a grand display of American intervention. In the past, on the occasion of an event like this on African or Middle Eastern soil, the United States of America would assume a leadership position in managing the crisis. Big Brother to the world.This
This time however, the troubled spot, Virginia, is in the United States of America and white people are the very genesis of the problem.
The events in Charlottesville are merely the culmination of months of protests by white supremacists. White nationalists gathered on Saturday for a “Unite the Right” march but were met by counter protesters. Name calling and taunting led to chaos which quickly escalated into brawling and at least three people were pronounced dead, with the number of injured persons pegged at thirty-four but rising.
A “Unite the Right” rally was planned for Friday, August 11 to protest the removal of a statue of a Confederate icon, General Robert E Lee. The protest which has been described as one of the largest white supremacist events in recent US history was organized by Jason Kessler – a former journalist and a member of the Proud Boys, an ultra-nationalist group.
On Friday, August 11, hundreds of marchers descended on the University of Virginia carrying torches and yelling slogans “white lives matter” and “blood and soil“.
Police intervened after clashes broke out and dispersed the crowd. The National Guard was called in and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. The President of the USA – Donald Trump tweeted (of course,) condemning the act of terrorism and racism but his message was an exercise in beating around the bush. On Tuesday evening, he would eventually stand by his initial statement, dishing out blame to all parties.
Here are 4 takeaways from the American debacle
- Is hate speech free speech?
Democracy and the 21st century have brought forward a lot of advancement in personal liberties. Among them, an almost total enforcement of freedom of speech and expression. Save for places like Africa where freedom after speech isn’t guaranteed, the world has moved on up. Except there is a little thing known as hate speech. This creates a philosophical dilemma. We want to be able to call Donald Trump a bigot and Dr. Ben Carson a puppet because of things they have said and done in the past, but where and who will police hate speeches? Charlottesville is up in flames because white nationalists hate and want death to immigrants and members of the negro race. That is a personal opinion and voicing these unwholesome views counts for free speech. But, what really is and should be free speech? Is there even such a thing?
- Racism and the systematic oppression of blacks never ended and might never end.
The majority of people in the protests shouting and being hateful are young men. It has been several hundred years since racism was outlawed, but twenty-three-year-old white American boys are still nursing feelings of hatred towards black people. So, what and how do we move on? I don’t think laws can change people anymore, but something has got to give. The whites that systematically hold power are dwindling in population when compared to the other races and this itself might just widen the gap and create even more animosity.
- Race is still a factor when defining things.
Black Lives Matter has constantly and consistently been labelled as a terrorist movement by Republicans and TV personalities – Tomi Lahren, I see you. The KKK still walks around spewing hate and sometimes threatens people with violence, but a movement looking to end the systematic targeting of black people by the police is seen as terrorist in some quarters. A white person moves to Nigeria and is called an expat, a Nigerian PhD holder moves to become a lecturer in the US or work with a Fortune 500 company but might still be called an immigrant.
- Donald Trump cannot and will not do anything should Charlottesville happen somewhere else
The President of the United States of America can only threaten certain types of terrorists. The ones with black skin, the ones with curly hair who may have a cousin with the name Pedro or Jesus. The ones named Ahmed with wavy hair (who just want to become software engineers and live in the US because conditions there might be better than back home, Iraq). Trump will have no direct words for white boys that kill black people in a church because of their colour, or for University students chanting blood and sweat on a land that was stolen from some people. Maybe, just maybe because he is one of them. Maybe, because he encouraged this on the campaign trail. Maybe, because he might feel they are right. Hell, he practically said they are right.
Oluwatosin Adeshokan is a freelance journalist and writer reporting stories about West Africa. He was previously the Culture Editor for YNaija. He tweets at @TheOluwatosin