Following the embarrassing white nationalist coup attempt on Jan. 6, talking heads repeated the phrase, “This isn’t who we are.”
I would argue, this is exactly who we are. This is America.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the coup attempt, as order was regained so the Senate and House could commence with their duties. A barrage of tear gas and pepper spray was released on the Capitol Hill steps, and the U.S. was saved from a fate it often damns Latin American countries to, such as Bolivia.
One of the insurrectionists said, “This is not America. They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM, but they’re shooting the patriots.”
This is who the U.S. is. A white nationalist was in complete disbelief when they faced repercussions from a U.S. police force; instead, they expected that violence to be reserved for minorities and left-wing protestors. Well, are they wrong?
In 1939, a Nazi rally took place at Madison Square Garden, organized by the German American Bund. It was attended by nearly 20,000 people. After WWII, the former Office of Special Investigations estimated that around 10,000 Nazi war criminals had fled to the United States from Eastern Europe. That is not the least of it, as Operation Paperclip, a secret program by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency, reportedly flew more than 1,600 Nazi collaborators to the U.S.
In 2017, the United States voted against a resolution to condemn the glorification of Nazism. We were one of three countries to vote against the resolution. The U.S. cited “free speech protections.”
Perhaps it is in the defense of free speech that the U.S. has allowed the Klu Klux Klan, which has been active in the U.S. since 1865, to remain an active organization. Despite numerous terrorist attacks conducted by the Klan, such as the Massacre of Communist Workers’ Party protestors and the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald, the hate group continues to have roots all across the U.S..
Growing up in rural Missouri, I can remember when the Klan would hold rallies in a nearby town. I was more likely to run into Klansmen or someone brandishing the Confederate flag than a person of color.
A nation that votes against condemning Nazis must be a beacon of tolerance and a true champion of free speech, right? Of course not. In September, FBI director Christopher Wray singled out white supremacists as the largest domestic terrorism threat. Despite such a threat, white supremacists and ultra-nationalists were able to storm the U.S. capitol with little or no resistance. Some Capitol Police are under investigation for allegedly aiding the insurrectionists.
Despite this obvious and terrible threat, U.S. police are still more likely to use force against left-wing and multiracial protests than right-wing protests. The Guardian used data from the U.S. Crisis Monitor and found that police use force 4.7% of the time on left-wing protests, compared to 1.4% for right-wing demonstrations.
The U.S. has the memory of armed protesters storming the Michigan state legislature unscathed, and now the memory of the U.S. Capitol insurrection fresh in their minds. These events do not match up to the raw force used against Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters over the summer. I, and many others, can recall the unprovoked tear gas, the incessant use of OC spray, the rubber bullets flying overhead and the violence by police towards protesters at these events. Young, Black teens crying out for racial justice were met with a heavy, suppressive fist.
There are lists of U.S. locations deemed unsafe for minorities by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Being able to stop for gas in a small, Missouri town seems like a right anyone in the U.S. would enjoy, but it simply is not. The NAACP deemed Missouri unsafe for minorities in 2017.
At a Black Lives Matter protest in Branson, Missouri, a woman surrounded by Confederate flags told BLM protesters, “I will teach my grandkids to hate you.”
President-elect Joe Biden has called on the nation to unify. But how? Proud Boys roam the streets of the U.S. with shirts that say “6MWE,” which means “Six million wasn’t enough,” referring to the death count at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi regime.
What messages are we being sent when calls for justice are met with violence, and calls for a nationalistic ethnostate are met with tolerance? What messages are sent when white nationalists walk this nation unafraid, but Black men have to watch over their shoulder? What message is sent when left-wing leaders such as Fred Hampton are assassinated on the initiative of the FBI, but the former Grand Wizard David Duke walks our streets wealthy and free?
Do fascists end up becoming convinced they are the nation’s “true patriots?” Is a reality created in which fascism is tolerated, while calls for racial, economic and social justice are seditious acts? The white nationalists would most certainly be under this impression. To the white nationalists, BLM are the traitors. To the fascists, America is for them, not the Anti-Fascists. To the neo-Nazis, America is their country… not ours.
The U.S. has too long of a history of tolerating Nazis and white nationalists. Perhaps unifying with Nazis and fascists is what brought us to this terrible point in the first place?