A race riot in a southern town — and a daunting policy test for Trudeau

Are black people safe in America? It’s the question many people are asking following this weekend’s violent rallies of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Nazis, Ku Klux Klan supporters and other hate groups operating under the ‘alt-right’ umbrella took to the streets to protest the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, a symbol of the state’s Confederate past, from a downtown park.

Similar monuments have been removed or relocated in cities across the U.S. south, several in response to the murder of nine black parishioners in a church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, by a self-described white supremacist. These decisions have fuelled a fierce controversy over how Americans should represent a national history that is steeped in slavery.

Charlottesville’s decision to remove the Lee statue became a rallying point for groups opposed to the changing ethical and ethnic face of the United States. Jason Kessler, who organized the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, said the rally was aimed at “standing up for our history.”

“The statue itself is symbolic of a lot of larger issues,” including preserving history against “revisionism,” combating political correctness, advocating for white interests and free speech, Kessler told CNN.

The animus driving the rioting in Charlottesville, in other words, comes from the same themes and memes that underpinned Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. There is little doubt that white supremacists have been emboldened by Trump’s ascension to the White House. They take credit for it.

“Make no mistake about it, our people have played a huge role in electing Trump!” tweeted David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan leader and also a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, after Trump’s surprise victory.

Which might explain why it took Trump two whole days to call out the evil in Charlottesville by name. Here’s what he initially had to say about the riots: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”

On Monday, facing severe public pressure, he finally denounced the groups involved. “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

This isn’t just America’s problem. It’s fast becoming Canada’s as well. As black Americans ask themselves whether they feel safe in the United States, many people who are not yet citizens there are answering in the negative — and voting with their feet.

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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