Charlottesville violence: As American as apple pie

Trump, Breitbart, Fox News and many others should own this outrage — but what happened has deep American roots

By D. Watkins

Published August 14, 2017 12:05PM (EDT)

 (Getty/Chet Strange)
(Getty/Chet Strange)

This weekend’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was as American as apple pie. It’s not shocking or surprising – these people have been around for a long time. The main difference is that the current administration has given them the confidence to truly express themselves.

A group of different varieties of racists and white nationalists tried to hold their “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in response to the proposed movement of a Confederate statue. As a result, 19 people were seriously injured and three people are dead–– a 32-year-old woman who has been identified as Heather Heyer and two state police officers, Trooper Berke M.M. Bates and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, whose helicopter crashed as they investigated this heinous event.

What’s sad is the way every right-wing pundit jumped on whatever cable news station they could on Sunday and tried to disassociate themselves from he events that had taken place in Charlottesville making statements like, “We aren’t a part of that!” or “They don’t represent the right!” Even the president of the alt-right himself, Donald Trump, chimed in to say, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time."

Remember that this is the same Donald Trump who brought Steve Bannon from Breitbart to the White House, never condemned Klan leader David Duke, encouraged violence at his rallies and offered to pay the legal fees of those who attacked peaceful protesters. Remember?

I’m just here to say they need to stop lying. Trump, Fox News, Breitbart and anyone else who fueled this racist movement need to take responsibility. Don’t try to run from what you started now. Again, there was nothing surprising about the actions that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend. What I saw was a classic Trump rally – just without Trump spewing hate from the pulpit. He’s done plenty of these events, so many that his attendance isn’t really required anymore. There were wannabe Nazis, Confederate flags and hateful rhetoric present just like we saw during the 2016 campaign, at the Republican National Convention and at the rallies he continues to hold even though he already won the White House.

Let’s stop pretending that we don’t know where these people came from. They are Americans who hate black people. Some were even dressed like little Trumps – in a strange way, they remind me of myself as a kid, when I had my braided and wore oversized basketball shorts to try to look like Allen Iverson. Except these are grown men, clowns wearing khaki pants, white polo shirts and "Make America Great Again" hats.

They aren’t dressed like Klan members – or at least not like Klan members used to dress. Instead they are dressed like loan officers, teachers, politicians and potential jurors. See how this works? And they no longer see any need to cover their faces. There’s no shame in their hate and they won’t be held accountable for their racist actions. What we learned this weekend, all over again, is that racism is alive and well -- and as American as apple pie.

D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America” and "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir." His latest book, "We Speak For Ourselves: A Word From Forgotten Black America," is out now.

MORE FROM D. WatkinsFOLLOW @dwatkinsworld