Looking for America: How Much has Changed Since Charlottesville?

By Elise Hsu, Staff Writer


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Courtesy of Beth Chayim Chadasim

I’m still looking for my own version of America…

Just over 2 years ago, white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, VA for a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general.  With chants like “White lives matter” and “One people, one nation, end immigration,” the protestors made their goals very clear. At the rally, James Fields purposefully drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer.  In addition to 419 years for federal hate crime charges, Fields received a life sentence in prison for this action. Although this event was used as an example of the consequences of hate, one question still remains: has anything changed in America?

 

One without the gun, where the flag can freely fly…

According to the Anti-Defamation League, at least 73 murders have been committed by white nationalists since Charlottesville. A percentage of this number can be attributed to mass shootings, including those that took place in Pittsburgh, PA and Poway, CA. The shooters in both of these examples were motivated by anti-Semitic ideologies, but other perpetrators were inspired by anti-immigrant and homophobic sentiments, among others.

This year, America saw three mass shootings in one week, two of which were on the same day.  One of them, which took place in El Paso, TX, featured a shooter with white nationalist ideologies.  Before he drove from Allen, TX to El Paso, he posted a manifesto online, and according to Intelligencer, he told investigators that he wanted to “shoot as many Mexicans as he could.” There were 22 victims in total, 8 of whom were Mexican.

This shooter was motivated enough to drive 10 hours just to shoot people in a Walmart. In his manifesto, which was posted on 8chan, he cited the shooting that took place at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand as an inspiration.  This reference demonstrates not only that white nationalists turn to their peers on social media to share their ideas, but also that white nationalism, in a sense, is intersectional.

 

So many things that I think twice about before I do…

Shortly after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, OH, I was sitting at home when I heard some loud pops from outside my window.  My first thought was, Were those gunshots?  A few minutes after, my dad even came into my room and asked me if I had heard gunshots.  Although it turned out that wasn’t the case, I was still afraid for my life. I couldn’t sleep that night.  

The worst part of it all, however, was my knowledge that I wasn’t the only person going through that thought process.  According to BuzzFeed News, Americans across the country are feel significant anxiety about stepping outside of their homes for fear of being a victim of gun violence.  Some have even mentioned that they can’t go anywhere without taking precautions, such as counting the amount of entry points in the building they are in.  If a country’s own citizens are scared of going outside, is that country really safe?

 

It’s just a dream I had in mind…

Since Charlottesville, not much has changed in America.  The only differences are that more people are committing crimes for reasons that tie into white nationalist ideologies. Has the president done anything to prevent tragedies like mass shootings? No. If anything, he has indirectly caused and supported them, as shooters are citing his words as inspirations to commit these crimes.  A peaceful country is a reasonable goal, but it’s nowhere close to being achieved if its leader is encouraging violence, intentionally or not.

All of this information may have left you with one question: “How can I help?”  Well, you can start by supporting the El Paso and Dayton communities by donating to the Dayton Foundation, the El Paso Community Foundation, and the Paso Del Norte Foundation here.  You can also educate yourself on the white nationalist movement and use that knowledge to analyze current events for different ideologies and tactics the movement may adopt.  After all, knowledge is a very powerful tool in an age where not every source is reliable. Finally, if you see someone being discriminated against, speak up. Let the target know that you stand with them and the perpetrator know that you stand against hate.  It is up to America’s citizens to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, and to come together and say: “We will not tolerate another Charlottesville.”

 

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” -Heather Heyer

 

(italicized song by Lana Del Ray)