By Zoe Crain
After the shocking events unfolded in Charlottesville, VA, during the weekend of August 12 and 13, 2017, President Donald Trump managed to pull himself away from golf long enough to state “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. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”
It is honestly unclear what Mr. Trump was intending to say in the final three sentences of this quote, but perhaps it can be interpreted as an allusion to the fact that civil unrest during the fight for equality has long been at the forefront of our country’s happenings – simply because the fight for equality is ongoing.
Indeed, it would be wise to remember that Jim Crow laws, rules that intentionally segregated white and non-white American citizens, were overturned on July 2, 1964. 53 years ago. This means that in the 331 years our country has existed, we have had “equal rights” for Americans with different skin colors for 16 percent of that time.
But perhaps Mr. Trump is referencing the violence of the Birmingham riots, where police set dogs on civil rights activists in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. Or the brutal murder of Emmett Till, the 14 year old black boy arrested for whistling at a white woman (who has since come forward and revealed this to be a total and complete lie – and has a book deal coming out about it!).
Perhaps Mr. Trump could be referencing the police response to the Native American protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. Police utilized pepper spray, guard dogs, water cannons, teargas, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades to beat back unarmed American citizens who were trying to protect sacred land.
There is a possibility that Mr. Trump is referencing individual skirmishes between white supremacists and counter-protesters that are happening across the country. It cannot be overlooked that physical fights break out at protests and can absolutely be started by people from “many sides,” as was seen both in the brutal attack of a black man by white supremacists and the attack of a white supremacist by antifa protesters in Charlottesville.
As is human nature, people across all belief systems can have violent tendencies and choose to act upon them. One side brings sticks and signs. The other brings torches, and independent militia armed with semi-automatic weapons. The police protect one side, and assault the other.
There is a difference between the violence of these many sides, Mr. Trump. A governing body should not endorse the abuse of its citizens. We cannot pretend that police treat all protestors the same, nor can we pretend all protestors have the same intents.
This is not a political issue: it is a moral one. Just as the Civil Rights Movement was, and the Holocaust was. Now is the time where we as a country must determine which side of history we’re on: the one where we endorse the segregation and abuse of Americans, or the one where we actually abide by the Constitution that so many like to quote and deliver our brothers and sisters their inalienable rights.