Just over eight months ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, Americans saw what might be, in the words of President Trump, “the most egregious display of hatred and violence,” in several years.
This display occurred at the “Unite the Right” rally, where many people were injured, hospitalized and one person even died.
During this event, there were protests, rallies, interfaith gatherings, riot gear and torches – not to mention the hoards of angry people, enraged by the removal of the Confederate war general Robert E. Lee’s statue. Up until this time, the statue had been seated on the University of Virginia’s campus.
In a way, it was a battle of old vs. new. The white supremacists and self-proclaimed Alt-Right group wished to defend the honorable legacy of Robert E. Lee alongside all of his other Confederate compatriots. They feared that their history, culture, traditions and ultimately their way of life was under attack and in time will soon be forgotten.
The National Geographic Series, “America Inside Out: One Nation Under Discussion with Katie Couric” suggests that, as of late, America is seeing evidence of a drastic shift in its collective attitude. In this case, it is suggesting that we are all becoming increasingly concerned with the way we view the happenings and intricacies of the civil war – and, in a nutshell, not everyone is happy about that.
Katie Couric, one of America’s most prominent journalists, heard about the events that were set to take place in Charlottesville and had traveled there, accompanied by a camera crew.
Couric narrated the program, conducted interviews and explored the unfolding of what all happened at the “Unite the Right” rally. Couric, an alumni of the University of Virginia, spoke of the significance of these events, primarily because Charlottesville is home to some of her fondest memories.
This program immediately takes on the narrative that the cause of what happened in Charlottesville lay in the Alt-Right group’s romanticized interpretation of the Civil War. Don Gathers, a black lives matter activist in the Charlottesville area puts this view in perspective.
“What gets lost in this argument so often is the South lost. Who gets a monument erected for losing?” he points out.
Couric bounces from one historian to another in search of objectivity and truth, trying to discern exactly how the happenings in Charlottesville came to be and why people feel the way they do so strongly.
The recurring understanding that the program asserts is one dealing with the fear of annihilation. The Alt-Right wishes to maintain and defend Southern Confederate ideals and culture. As the program suggests, these people feel threatened by society’s changing attitudes concerning diversity, race and ultimately white supremacy.
These ideas and this fear of annihilation as a race and as a people is what motivated all the chaos behind Charlottesville. The removal of the Robert E. Lee statue is, in the eyes of prominent civil rights activist Dr. Cornel West, “just a catalyst.”
All of this controversy began when a 16-year old high school student, Zyahna Bryant, who lives in Charlottesville, began raising awareness by launching a 2016 petition to remove the statue.
“I think it’s ridiculous that we give this man a space. Wow, he fought to keep slavery – so that’s offensive because I’m black, so that would mean that I would still be a slave. Its pretty, like, simple to understand, but a lot of people just don’t get it,” she said when asked about why the statue makes her so uncomfortable.
The sequence of events in Charlottesville is indicative of a much larger problem many Americans seemingly believed we as a nation had surpassed and overcome: the problem of racism. At the end of the day, many black people argue that the existence of these statues and monuments is insulting and proves a constant reminder of the horrors of slavery.
On the other hand, the Alt-Right group believes that “White America” is disappearing before our eyes and that scares the living s–t out of them. Thus, they go to great lengths to do whatever they can to protect their history and their way of life, and if blood is shed in the process, so be it – for it will be in the name of the Confederacy and Southern tradition, and their identity as a people.