The violent events that transpired in Charlottesville were very disturbing and a terrible sign for our country and the nation. Three people lost their lives. Heather Heyer and Virginia State Troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates were killed during the hate-filled rally.
We like to think that the great majority of Americans don’t exhibit the kind of hate we saw on full display in Charlottesville. We know there is racism and bigotry in our country. We witnessed the vile names former president Barack Obama was called, along with the bigotry towards his wife and children. We witnessed the shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, on the evening of June 17, 2015. During a prayer service, nine people (including the senior pastor, state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney) were killed by gunman Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist. Roof confessed to the shootings in hopes of starting a race war. And now Charlottesville. Three vivid examples of racial hate in our nation.
Some have argued there are a small number of people who harbor these types of hate. Some argue that the election of America’s first black president was the tipping point for some who are concerned with losing the country.
When we hear people say, “Take our country back,” the question is, take it back from whom? Other Americans? This is a dog-whistle for some that America should continue to be a white-ethnocentric nation.
The truth is, the diversity in our nation makes us the most unique nation in the world and has led to America being the greatest nation the world has ever seen. The nation will continue to grow and become even more diverse. All we need do is look at the children being born in this nation.
The Public School Review reports: “It has been an ongoing trend for nearly two decades—while the total number of students in American public schools has risen, the percentage of those students who are white has steadily fallen.” According to the Pew Research Center, in 1997, over 63 percent of the 46.1 million U.S. public school students were white. Today, white students comprise just 49.7 percent of the 50 million students enrolled.” This fact may contribute to the hysteria and hate of the alt-right, Nazi, white supremacist and KKK marchers as they shouted, “Jews will not replace us. Blacks will not replace us.” These comments from the marchers indicate an underlying fear that they are losing their position as the majority group in the United States and thus are espousing hate against Jews and blacks.
When you evaluate hate groups in the United States, you may be surprised to know they reside in every state in the Union. Led by California’s 79 hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports there are 917 hate groups in the United States. Surprisingly South Carolina has a low number of 12 and Florida has 63. The growth of hate groups peaked in 2011 at 1,018 and declined by 25% or 234 in 2014; and grew by 133 groups or 17% in 2016. Mind you, these groups represent anti-Muslim, KKK, anti-government and black separatist groups. Hate is hate, regardless of who promotes it.
The question is, what can be done about this, given the lack of moral leadership from our elected president and Congress?
The answer is, we the people have to step up and hold our lawmakers accountable and replace them if they lack the moral courage to do what is right. We the people have to set the example of loving thy neighbor for our children, for young people and each other to build bridges of respect, while rejecting hate.
We must join together with our work colleagues, our churches, our institutions of higher learning, our schools and our neighbors, and fellow countryman. We cannot afford to allow fringe groups to hijack our nation with hate. We have to show each other and the world that we are a nation of immigrants and we continue to be exceptional by resolving our differences in a respectful and collaborative way. We are an exceptional nation, and it is up to us to maintain our exceptionalism.
Commentary provided by Carolina Commentary, a not-for-profit platform established for the purpose of providing opinion and analysis focused on North Carolina public policy issues.Unless otherwise bylined, commentaries are the work of its editorial board: Jim Buchanan, Joy Franklin, Julie Martin and Virgil Smith.