This Is Us

The guts of a nation, built on an unnatural divide that’s written into our source code are out in the open for all to see in Charlottesville right now.

This is Us.

From the moment the Dutch ship, The White Lion bartered with the Jamestown settlers to repair their damaged vessel, this has been us.

Their payment? 20 Africans slaves.

From the existence of slavery in the everyday lives of the men who wrote our founding principles in the words of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, written by a man who owned other men. Who fathered children with young girls he owned, who were fathered with young girls his father owned.

From the compromise, “Three-fifths” for black slaves in the census of the south. The bounty of ownership granted rights of representation for the needs of white men in government. But burdened them with no obligation for the representation of those owned.

From the economic efficiency that the arrangement gave us and the unstoppable power of export and industry the millions in bondage provided in cotton and tobacco to move us with seamless progress from the agrarian to the industrial world.

From the bloodiest war Americans have ever lived through where men from the same land and the same lineage and the same language killed each other in numbers never before seen. The age of modern warfare was ushered in over the cause of slavery.

From Jim Crow that denied the legitimacy of our governing documents that we spilled the blood of over a half million Americans to defend.

From the marches and riots and assassinations in the streets only fifty years ago when we decided to end it.

To the streets of Charlottesville today. Where a group of Americans, who’ve never once felt the unfair sting of oppression, rose up in force against nothing at all to protest the removal of a statue of a man who committed treason against his country to lead the army of an institution founded on the principle of black slavery in America.

The darkness in the heart of our nation has been, is and I fear always will be the inequality of those who descended from the bondage we created for the economic advantage of early America.

Whether we like it or not, whether we chose for this reason our selves or not, this election was won on race. It was won by a “win at all costs” man who was willing to go to a place to unite divided factions in the name of protecting the white working man—first, above all others.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in the West Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary by a landslide. She received 67% of the vote. Obama had just 29%. Eight years later, it was another landslide. Except Clinton lost to Bernie Sanders.

53%. The most important number in the 2016 election.

That’s the relative drop in support for Clinton, from winning by nearly 38% to losing by over 15% in her contests with Obama and Sanders respectively.

That number said something. And Donald Trump heard it loud and clear.  Make the election a contest of identity based politics. Take the side of the white working man. And you can win.

Make America Great Again.

You didn’t have to believe that the most important thing for America for the next eight years is the protection of our white working class in order to have voted for for Donald Trump. But if that’s what you believed, than it’s likely that you did. More likely than it’s been in a long, long time. He didn’t say it. He might not even believe it. He didn’t have to. Because in America, with our history, all you have to do in order to let white nationalism creep back into the discussion, is simply not insist that it doesn’t.

When you’re a man who insists on much, what you choose not to insist, is important.

What we’re seeing in Charlottesville is the cost of an election won on that lack of that insistence. Internet aggregated data on racial search terms and the geographic presence of white supremacist ideology shows that Barrack Obama lost 4% of the national vote because he was black. Trump won Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by 1% or less. The counties where racially derogatory search teams are most prevalent have a near perfect correlation to how well Donald Trump faired in them in the 2016 election.

In America, you can win, simply by letting the notion of white nationalism breath just a little.

What we got in Charlottesville this weekend is the price tag.

The only way to square the ledger is tolerating leaders who won’t tolerate it at all.

And not tolerating those that do any longer.


15 replies »

  1. Thank you for your perspective and ability to get such clear thoughts posted so quickly. President Obama’s first name has only one r.

  2. Hello from Virginia. Today is a difficult day. This analysis nails it. Everything that’s been driving me crazy for the last 8 months, articulated. If only your essays could find their way to Fox, WSJ, etc. Thanks for writing.

  3. Thank you, for this succinct summation.
    Until this country, ALL of us, own and admit our history, we cannot begin to repair what has been so badly damaged.
    We must say it out loud, as you have, one by one in our communities, that we created this monster, and we must change our dialog, our thinking, our attitudes.
    How long will it take? My children’s lifetimes?
    My grandchildren’s?
    Oh, the horror of it all.

  4. Respectfully disagree. The immoral and evil KKK demonstrators are no more Us than the violent and evil fascist Antifa protestors. Trump has repeatedly disavowed and condemned the white supremacists. They are equally free citizens of a free country that can say or think whatever they like, the President can’t deny them free speech.
    America is probably the most free and just nation in history, we are not morally responsible for our ancestor’s actions, any more than we are the actions of a small minority of evil people, be they Antifa or KKK.

    • If you knew the history of the KKK from the 1920s when there were 5 million members (15% of the population) you would change your response to this article. He nailed it.
      You and I and everyone in the US benefits from the legacy of slavery. That’s the basis of our capitalism. Also- lack of understanding how we are connected to “true” history is a major issue. This is us. Unresolved us. And it’s not pretty.

      • Yes there were 5 million KKK members 97 years ago, long before most of us were born. Now there are about 6000, a fringe element. Neither we, nor modern day capitalism have slavery. We shouldn’t forget slavery, but it is history, not reality.
        Today’s problems can be also be resolved, if we stop blaming long-gone ancestors and strive for freedom and justice today.

    • And I must disagree with this statement, “Trump has repeatedly disavowed the white supremacists….”. Trump has been ambiguous, at best, since taking office, using terms that suggest freedom of speech allows oppression and violence, which it does not. And on the campaign trail, he has openly encouraged the white supremacists, the Antifa, and the disenfranchised, to act out aggressively and violently.
      It is enormously important that we all tell the truth about the current administration’s actions and speech. Trump and his advisors are actively fomenting what we see in the streets of Virginia. Trump does not get a “pass”.

      • Here’s a video of him repeatedly disavowing the KKK/David Duke, etc. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeK-f3_7Wv4

        Trump doesn’t require a pass, because minor jokes and comments warped for political gain should never be used to justify violence. I haven’t heard Trump say anything that I would take as encouragement to violence, and neither has anyone else. If you’re violent, it’s because you choose to be, not because of what some politician says.
        The fascist Antifa is a violent group that must be rejected by everyone, as should the KKK. We shouldn’t use long-past history, or current day political elections, as an excuse to justify violence by these fringe elements.

  5. Yes, a great piece produced quickly. Thank you. I can only hope your influence grows. I live in Olympia WA, and the supremacists have targeted my community. It is very scary, and the community is being torn apart. All we can do is continue to resist this virulent and overt racism.

  6. You are correct. Charlottesville is my home and Virginia is my alma mater. The vile and contemptuous stranger that violated our community this weekend have indeed been emboldened by the current occupant of the whitehouse and his unwillingness to cast blame squarely on a violent and anachronistic segment of his base. Aside from the tragedy in my town, the travesty is that no one expected the president to denounce them…and yet we elected him.

  7. From England this all seems very strange, confusing and frightening. Its not my job to interfere with another nation’s struggles but please know that the rise across the world of nationalists and extremists is something all people should denounce. We live together on this little planet and only by caring for it and each other will we leave it a better place for our grandchildren. Good luck America, you have my support (for what its worth) because if you don’t resolve this issue ….. it will arrive in my town for sure!

    • I think you can rest easy. There hasn’t been a rise of white supremacists, there’s just been a rise in the media coverage of them. It’s politically expedient for the media now so they can tie extremists to Trump, but as soon as a Democrat is back in the White House the KKK will disappear again.

  8. Disagree, Trump didn’t take the side of the white working man. He took the side of America. All of us. Trump took the same side as Bill Clinton in the 90s but today that side is considered racist. I think that America needs to take ownership of its current condition and stop blaming others or the past character defects of white/black/ or green.

  9. This is Us. So true. Not us against them-all of us. After the OJ Simpson verdict, many were stunned at the size of our racial divide between black and white America.

    That we elected Obama twice gives me hope that the size of the problem is smaller. His election enabled many to think we were finally post-racial.

    With so many senators and congressmen, either afraid of political consequences, or fueled by dogma, tepidly stating, “We don’t approve of his racially-charged rhetoric, but we like deregulation and tax reform,” I fear a post-racial is not in the near future. Racism is part of our national DNA.

    The events in Charlottesville demonstrate the need to understand the depth of this issue, not just its size, to rid ourselves of it. All of Us. Your post is a great start. Thank you.