When will white Americans grasp how many white people die from white supremacist terrorism? The newest victim is Heather Heyer, a white woman crushed to death by a driver plowing into a crowd, a man who was apparently a participant in last weekend’s violent racist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
State troopers Berke Bates and H. Jay Cullen, who died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the rally, were collateral victims. Though their race was not noted in news reports, they were by all appearances white men.
The carnage of white supremacist terrorism should have been understood after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, where Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people of all colors. Fueled in significant degree by racial hatred, McVeigh was a devotee of “The Turner Diaries,” a white supremacist novel that imagined an American race war so grotesque that white women were hung for marrying African-Americans and Jews.
The carnage should have been understood after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, carried out by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The two teens adored Adolf Hitler and were reported to have routinely used racial epithets. Yet most of their 13 victims were white.
The carnage should have been understood when Ku Klux Klansman Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. went looking for Jews to kill in Overland Park, Kansas, and killed only Christians.
There are, of course, plenty of tragic instances when racists find their intended target, such as Dylann Roof in the massacre of black parishioners in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and Wade Michael Page’s murderous rampage in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. But such massacres, while lamented momentarily, have not ultimately served to modulate the nation’s politics. Trump is the ultimate proof, with 63 percent of white men and 53 percent of white women voting for him after he waged the most race-baiting general election campaign in modern history.
Thus we have arrived at another moment of truth for the republic, with very mixed signs as to whether a majority of white Americans are truly affected by Charlottesville. Trump’s horrid response, marked by his failure to quickly and unequivocally condemn neo-Nazis, the Klan, and any form of white supremacy, led to many business leaders resigning from White House advisory councils, before Trump disbanded them to avoid the embarrassing exodus. Leaders from the US military issued strong statements about hatred having no place in their ranks. Several mayors have accelerated the moving of monuments glorifying the Confederacy from prominent public spaces.
But conversely, a National Public Radio/Public Broadcasting Service/Marist poll found that only 46 percent of white people thought Trump’s response to Charlottesville was not strong enough. That compares to 32 percent who thought it was strong enough and 23 percent who were unsure. Just as telling, 59 percent of Republicans thought Trump’s response was strong enough, while only 19 percent thought Trump was not strong enough.
To be sure, most elected Republicans didn’t defend Trump. But neither did they roundly condemn his remarks. NPR reported Thursday that none of the 52 Republican US senators were willing to be interviewed on Trump’s response. Even conservative-friendly Fox News couldn’t get any Republicans to come on air in midweek to talk about Trump.
By Thursday, only a tiny handful of major Republican figures had directly criticized Trump. One was Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who said, “Helping inspire divisions because it generates support from your political base is not a formula for causing our nation to advance.”
Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, rallied around Trump, saying, “The president has been clear on this tragedy . . . I stand with the president.”
Trump has been clear all right — so clear that former Klan leader David Duke and neo-Nazis all over the Internet are also standing with him.
Until white Americans send a majority message directly to Trump that his appeals to hate are unacceptable, Charlottesville won’t change anything. More white people will die from white supremacist terrorism.Derrick z. Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.