Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the subsequent reaction to them highlight a stark hypocrisy — one that is ingrained across the American political spectrum, from left to right.
When a neo-Nazi demonstrator drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters ten days ago and killed a woman, decent people were horrified. The idea that groups of neo-Nazis are roaming America’s streets is understandably disturbing to a lot of people. Counter-protesters are enraged by their proud displays of hatred and bigotry, not to mention the broadcasting of their assumed “supremacy” over the other races and religions which make up the fabric of the country.
Of course, none of this is new in America. The enormous media attention Charlottesville has received (perhaps because of who the White House occupant is) simply serves to amplify what was always there; not even bubbling under the surface, but right on top. Neo-Nazi and ‘white power’ marches have been happening in the US for decades.
What is the ‘hypocrisy’ then?
It’s the failure of the counter-protesters to acknowledge that white supremacy in America is inextricably linked to the scourge of American exceptionalism, imperialism and exportation of fascism that has plagued the rest of the world for decades, and that many of the so-called lovers of peace and equality are the biggest supporters of this version of supremacy.
I’m not talking about the proudly violent ‘Antifa’ here. Their own fascist tendencies are on display for anyone to see. I’m talking about the regular counter-protesters. The ones who march peacefully for equality. The ones whose hearts hurt and who shed tears when they think of the injustices of America. The ones who went to the Women’s March. The ones who voted for Hillary Clinton. The ones who regard themselves as inherently good. The bleeding heart liberals who make up a significant portion of the Democratic Party in the US.
Yes, I’m talking about those because they are a bigger problem than a bunch of violent Antifa protesters flinging bottles of urine at police officers. Why? Because this contingent has happily and blindly supported politicians who advocate US imperialism and all the violence and inequality that goes with it.
This kind of supremacy is sanctioned and acceptable. It is roundly approved and authorized by neoliberals and neoconservatives alike. It is, essentially, what makes up their entire foreign policy philosophy as Americans.
American exceptionalism is a sanctioned form of supremacy, one which says it is perfectly alright for ‘good’ Americans to advocate and engage in the violent invasions of foreign nations in all corners of the globe, from Latin America to the Middle East, to East Asia. Americans participate in public debate about whether or not they should overthrow the government in whichever hapless country is next on their own government’s hit list. This rarely strikes them as odd or wrong, or even unusual. This kind of supremacy is so ingrained and commonplace that most Americans barely even acknowledge it as such.
American wars rob people in foreign nations of their own agency; raping, plundering and destroying their lands, the overriding goal to maintain and preserve that acceptable American supremacy. Slapping sanctions on countries which fail to do the bidding of the world’s self-appointed masters in Washington is another oft-used tactic. Supporting brutal foreign dictators who work in cahoots with Washington is another.
This kind of supremacy is normalized, celebrated even, in the media and by political leaders. It’s the typically racist view that the unwashed masses need the good-hearted Americans to sort their country out because they can’t do it themselves. Yes, if they could just be like the successful Americans, they’d be happy and thriving. A few bombs will sort them out.
Of course, it’s all about the framing. It’s easy if you tell yourself you’re doing something for the right reasons: You want everyone to have democracy, you want everyone to be equal and happy. Sure, there will be collateral damage and maybe decades of chaos, but at least your heart was in the right place.
To be clear, I am not equating people who (thanks to media and government spin) support American wars to neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The supremacy and racism of the ‘alt-right’ is a different kind. It is proud. Those who attend white pride marches know they believe in their own supremacy. Whereas, it seems not to have even occurred to most of the counter-protesters, to the many so-called liberals waving signs about love trumping hate and the ‘resistance’ to injustice, that they are themselves engaged in their own kind of imperialist racism.
Fortunately, though, there are also plenty of Americans who do get it. They understand these links and hypocrisies. One of them is black activist Takiyah Thompson, who was arrested for her part in toppling a Confederate statue in North Carolina, two days after the violent protests in Charlottesville.
Whatever one may think of Thompson’s methods, it’s hard to disagree with her message. Thompson was interviewed by teleSUR shortly before being arrested. She argued that her local struggle cannot be discussed separately from the “role of the United States globally,” and described US sanctions on countries like Venezuela, Cuba, and Zimbabwe as a continuation of the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws — but practiced on an international scale.
“The struggle for Black liberation in this country is the same as the struggle against US imperialism,” she said.
Unfortunately, the average counter-protester who shows up to shout down the neo-Nazis still seems to view these domestic struggles in a vacuum.
For Americans, the racist, anti-semitic, white supremacist neo-Nazis with tiki torches might look like the biggest threat, and for many African Americans and other minorities, they of course do pose a threat.
But for the rest of the world, it’s the average American, the one easily fooled into believing that American wars are good, which is the bigger threat.