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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Today’s Rising White Nationalism

By Donald V. Watkins

©Copyrighted and Published on August 26, 2019

There was a Ku Klux Klan rally Saturday in Hillsborough, North Carolina in front of the local courthouse. Members of the KKK prominently displayed President Donald Trump’s infamous “Make America Great Again” slogan on their banner. Their “Yesterday, Today, Forever!” mantra reminds me of former Alabama Governor George Wallace’s “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” political tagline.

Out of curiosity, I visited the KKK website listed on the banner. I found a smorgasbord of racially derogatory statements. Among them were these profoundly ignorant and hateful expressions:

1. “Jews are Not the chosen people; Fuckin Jews, after 2,000 years, you still won’t admit you murdered Jesus” (accompanied by a caricature that is too despicable to describe in this article).

2. "If it ain't white, it ain't right."

3. “Say ‘No’ to race mixing” (accompanied by a photo of a black man talking to a white woman).

4. “Support your police: putting niggers back where they belong” (accompanied by the photo below depicting black women and men being arrested and jailed).

5. “The only thing we have found that blacks have truly created was the ‘EXCUSE’ and “let’s point the finger at the white man”; they need to look at their own people first. The ones who sold them to the Jewish slave traders of Europe who then turned around and brought them here. They should thank the whites every day for saving them from the hell that is Africa. Most would not be here today because they would have been ate by their own ancestors. They should do away with Martin Lucifer King day and black history month. And just have a let’s praise WHITEY DAY for saving them from themselves.” [Editor’s note: The grammar in this quote was corrected slightly to make it somewhat comprehensible.]

Making Sense of the Revival of Racism

A week ago, Jim Paloucek, a North Platte, Nebraska attorney and the former president of the North Platte school board, publicly addressed the revival in white racism by making these insightful observations:

1. When Bull Connor turned fire hoses and attack dogs on civil rights activists in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, some aimed the hoses and urged on the dogs, some suffered the brunt of the violence, but most Americans were silent.

2. When civil rights demonstrators were brutally beaten and tear-gassed on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, some swung the billy clubs and fired the gas, some suffered the blows and choked on the smoke, but most Americans were silent.

3. History records the violence perpetrated by the villains and the courage displayed by the heroes in each of these episodes. But history also remembers the brutal truth that many, many citizens stood on the sidelines for far too long in silent complicity with that era’s betrayal of America’s creed.

4. Donald Trump has long poured racial poison into the already toxic political mire. For years, Trump questioned the nationality of America’s first black president. Trump announced his presidential campaign by labeling Mexicans crossing our nation’s southern border rapists and criminals. He proclaimed that all Muslims should be banned from entering the country. When his candidacy attracted the support of David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK, Trump disingenuously feigned a lack of knowledge of Duke or white supremacy groups. During the campaign, Trump attacked the mother and father of a Muslim soldier who had given his life in service of this country, and he suggested that an Indiana-born federal judge could not fairly preside over Trump University litigation because of the judge’s Hispanic heritage.

5. After his election, President Trump declared that there were “fine people” among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists parading at Charlottesville in 2017. He has instituted family separations and mass imprisonment at our southern border and characterized Hispanic immigrants as “invaders” bringing infestation to our country. Trump has recently attacked four young Congresswomen of color, all of whom are American citizens. The President insists they should “go back ... to the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”

6. Trump’s appeals to fear and grievance, his scaremongering on immigration, and his ever-present sorting of people into groups of “us” and “them” will sooner or later settle into their well-deserved place in the dustbin of history occupied by George Wallace’s “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” movement.

What About Us?

How will history record our stance during this rise in white nationalism and revival of violent white supremacy during the age of Trumpism? Will we be among the modern-day equivalent to the wielders of fire hoses and billy clubs, or the targets of those attacks, or with the cowering multitude of quiet observers too timid to speak up for America’s principles?

As for me, I survived Alabama’s racial hatred and violence of the 1950s and 60s. Sadly, I am experiencing this orchestrated hatred and ugliness again. I have the skills necessary to survive this revival in racism.

In the 1950s and 60s, the KKK infiltrated federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for the sole purpose of abusing African-Americans, Jews, and other people of color. Today, the KKK is using the same nefarious tactic with law enforcement agencies, with an unexpected measure of success.

I have never been in the group that “turned fire hoses and attack dogs on civil rights activists.” I have never been with the “cowering multitude of quiet observers too timid to speak up for America’s principles.” I have always been among those who were on the front line and those who were targeted for our civil rights activism.

Whether we admit it or not, Donald Trump has opened the floodgates for racial hatred. It is fashionable again.

This time around, it is not the words of the KKK that bother me; it is the silence of my white friends that I find most troubling.

PHOTO: Ku Klux Klan members staged a rally Saturday in Hillsborough, North Carolina in front of the local courthouse.

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