As I write this, the name of the woman killed while protesting white supremacist Nazi alt-humans has just been released. Heather Heyer, 32 years old, was murdered at a Nazi rally by a Nazi terrorist slamming his car into a crowd. In America. In 2017.
If you find yourself totally dumbstruck by this or saying, “This is not the America I know!” I’m going to go ahead and guess that you’re white and of some kind of Christian ancestry. Not that there’s anything wrong with being white or even Christian for that matter. It’s just that white Christians in America — especially the heterosexual male ones — have it real good.
So good that they can ignore racism and anti-Semitism and write off white supremacist Nazis as a fringe element that should just be ignored. This is not as easy to do if you’re Jewish, say, or African American. Then the evil shit coming out of the mouths of Nazis is aimed directly at you. You don’t have the privilege of ignoring it.
While the white right is always crying about being discriminated against in America, that’s total bullshit. America has a long, deeply rooted racist history which has never ended for people of color. Obama’s election signaled “the end of racism” only for whom racism was essentially already over. Don’t get me wrong. Obama winning the presidency (twice!) was a historic victory and I don’t begrudge anyone their pride in that. But the fact that so many white people were completely unprepared for a Trump presidency is pretty telling.
This is part of why there are so many white people who said they believed that racism increased under Barack Obama (and why many of them even blame him for it). Racism didn’t get worse. It just got more visible. White people, for whom the day-to-day racism had been largely invisible, suddenly started seeing it everywhere in a backlash against our first black president.
Well, if racism dared show its ugly face in public with Obama as President, under Trump racism is basically streaking naked through the streets with impunity, rubbing its genitals on anything and everything. A white guy who a couple of years ago might have limited his racist thoughts to memes posted in certain dark corners of Reddit now feels totally fine raising a blazing pitchfork at a public rally in front of news cameras.
Trump’s election has given racists the permission and recognition they’ve been longing for. Trump ran a racist campaign. Racist people then voted for him (was everyone who voted for Trump racist? I can’t answer that. I can say that in order to vote for Trump you had to be at least not bothered by racism, which is kind of a hard thing to be neutral about). Trump then brought racists into the White House and Department of Justice (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions, just to name a few high profile white supremacist faces). So it’s really not a surprise that racists read this as a green light to go full Breitbart in public.
So while Trump may not have driven the car that killed Heather Heyer and injured so many others – while he may not have held a lit tiki torch while screaming, “White lives matter,” make no mistake that Trump is the Grand Wizard of this horrific nationwide parade.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.