Saturday, a non-violent protester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed and at least 19 people were injured in Charlottesville, Va., when a neo-Nazi rammed his car into the group. The neo-Nazi, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., was taking part in a right-wing rally.
The case is being investigated as a possible federal hate crime, and the announcement of the investigation carried an appropriate message from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
Sessions’ comment has been overshadowed by the paltry response from President Donald Trump, whose first response was a feeble, “We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” His comment has been singled out not for what it said, but for what it didn’t mention: the role of racism, and specifically, neo-Nazism in the attack.
Some of those same neo-Nazis have even celebrated Trump’s comments, taking his decision to not name them directly as implicit support for their movement.
Trump flirted with the so-called alt right all through his campaign; he pandered to them, among others, with his message about making the nation great again.
Now, it seems he’s unwilling to condemn them, and their message is spreading.
We cannot afford to have that happen in Canada, because, just as there are in the United States, there are racist hate groups here eager to make themselves known.
What can we do?
Call out racism for what it is. Address it, shame it, drive it back under the rock it has lived under for years. Name hatred when you see it. Explain to your children its danger and its poison. Demand that our politicians be clear and unequivocal about saying there is no place for racial intolerance in this country, and make sure there is no place in elected office for those who would seek to make political gain by pandering to racists.
Hatred thrives when otherwise reasonable people decide to turn a blind eye to it — and countries have discovered it does not take much time for racism to take root.
Heyer’s last Facebook message before she was killed?
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. The time for paying attention, for addressing racism straight on and saying exactly what it is, has come.
It is hatred, plain and simple. It has no place here.