After Charlottesville

:: politics

In June 2017 I argued that people who voted for Trump were racists: I’m very unhappy with that conclusion.

But a year after the events at Charlottesville on the 11th and 12th of August 2017, and Trump’s response to them, it’s obvious that I was right: a very significant proportion of Americans are certainly racists. And the same is, surely, true for other countries: many of the people I see every day must be racists.


The march as Charlottesville was not just some rather right-wing people wanting to preserve the symbols of their romanticised past without thinking too hard about what that past actually involved: it was people waving flags with swastikas on them and chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’. It was, in other words, Nazis1. Of course, not everyone on the march was doing this, but here’s the thing: if you find yourself on the same march as people waving swastikas and chanting antisemitic slogans, you stop marching. If you don’t stop marching you are, in fact, supporting them. You don’t get to say that, well, you march alongside Nazis but you’re not actually a Nazi supporter: and if you support Nazis, you’re a Nazi.

And these Nazis aren’t fooling around: one of them drove a car into the crowd, killing Heather Heyer. That’s murder, and an act of terrorism. And there were other attacks associated with the march, including on DeAndre Harris, who was beaten with a metal pipe and wooden boards.

Trump’s response

We all know what this was. Initially, on the 12th of August he made a statement saying:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides2.

He repeated ‘on many sides’ twice.

On the 14th of August he gave another statement saying:

Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America3.

It seems to be pretty clear that he made this statement as a result of strong pressure from people in the administration after the reaction to his first statement, and that it was written for him.

Then, on the 15th of August he gave in and said what he really thought:

I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. […] I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. […] You have some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides4.

So we know what he thinks: he thinks that both sides are pretty much the same. Nazis and those who march with them are pretty much equivalent to those who fight them, and in particlar among those marching with the Nazis there were ‘fine people’. Nazis are people who are not just racists: they don’t just think some groups of people are inherently superior to others, they advocate that the inferior groups should be gassed, and they have in the past done just that to millions of people. If you’re a Nazi or you are marching with Nazis, you are not ‘fine people’: you’re a deeply horrible human being.

So, OK, that’s pretty clear, right? Trump was offering support to racists, and in fact to Nazis. You really can’t miss that, and I’m sure no-one did.

Where this goes

So, obviously, if Trump’s supporters were not racists his support would have collapsed in the days & weeks after Charlottesville: people who had missed his racism in the election campaign weren’t going to miss this, because it’s not possible to miss it. Well, of course his support has not collapsed5, and so there is only one conclusion: an awful lot of people, including the elected politicians who still support him, are racists.

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

— Heather Heyer’s last post on Facebook

  1. Perhaps they were, technically, neo-Nazis: there is no useful distinction. 

  2. Source: this CNN article

  3. Source: as previous quote. 

  4. Source: this transcript

  5. At the time of writing his approval rating to be about 40%, based on this