While the Middle East and the border crisis get all the attention, Charlottesville and El Paso remind us that America’s worst threat is right here at home.
August 12th 2017, fresh out of my first year at the University of Virginia, I sat in front of my TV horrified, watching white supremacists marching through a place I had recently starting calling home. Headlines on every major paper ran with Trump’s quote regarding “fine people on both sides.”
When classes started in the fall, my peers and I returned to Charlottesville deeply unsettled by what had happened on our grounds. Our community was rocked to its core. However, the rest of the world quickly moved on without us.
The past two years, this weekend has marked a time for remembrance, but also caution and fear in Charlottesville. The dates, August 11th and 12th, have become something of the towns very on 9/11, and the police presence during these two days isn’t easy to ignore. The events that took place to years ago are on our minds, however, not on the mind of the nation.
The march on Charlottesville was the last time I saw white supremacy dominate all the major headlines, that is, until this weekend’s mass shooting in El Paso. We, as a nation, let ourselves become distracted and forgetful of a real problem that’s been growing in the heart of our country. We can point to how the nation has so eagerly embraced the narrative of the “dangerous outsider” to explain why.
A decade ago, the Department of Homeland Security released a report on the growing threat of right wing extremism, correctly predicting “the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.” However, this warning was not given serious merit by the Trump administration. President Trump’s transition team made it clear to the DHS that it wanted to focus on Islamic terrorism and reorient programs meant to counter violent extremism to exclusively target international threats like al-Qaeda and ISIL. These Islamic terrorist groups have stayed in the headlines, despite the fact they no longer pose a serious domestic threat. It should come as no surprise that this June the FBI reported a significant rise in white supremacist domestic terrorism in recent months.
President Trump’s rhetoric has also turned American’s attention away from the alt-right matter at hand, and turned our attention to what he would call an “infestation.” Searching through theTrump Twitter Archive, I failed to find one mention of domestic terrorism, white nationalists or the growing menace they pose to our country. After all, why shouldn’t Trump protect his loyal voter base? It’s no secret that white nationalists are Trump supporters; alt right leaders have even been spotted at his rallies.
The president has protected these terrorists by turning the national discussion elsewhere -the southern border. As a result, liberals have kept themselves busy investigating the disgusting conditions of border control centers and “children in cages,” while conservatives call for further border restrictions. These leaves no one time for anyone to wage war against the real domestic threat --white supremacy.
Trump denounced “racist hate” Monday after the shooting this weekend. He blamed violent video games, mental health and, ironically, internet bigotry from prompting the Dayton and El Paso attacks. He failed to make mention of any real action that might be taken against white supremacist terrorism, let alone endorse gun law reform.
Had the attackers been Black, Hispanic or Middle Eastern, the White House would surely be taking extreme action. However, just like during the aftermath of Charlottesville, nothing serious is being done to combat alt-right violence.
Now,in light of the two year anniversary, I can’t help but wonder if our country truly took notice of the event that shook our little community two years ago. I still pass by the street where Heather Heyer was killed by a domestic terrorist who drove his car into a crowd of people two years ago. The street, now named Heather Heyer Way, remains adorned with chalk writing, flowers and crosses dedicated to her memory. How many more memorials must we lay in El Paso, and the rest of the world, before we address the white supremacist threat?
EMILY DHUE is a third year student at the University of Virginia majoring in media. She is currently studying abroad in Valencia, Spain. She's passionate about writing that makes an impact, and storytelling through digital platforms.