Since white nationalists descended on Charlottesville two weeks ago and Donald Trump invented the term “alt-left” whole cloth, local conservatives have been turning themselves into pretzels to shift the blame for the violence and hateful rhetoric back onto progressives. Instead of condemning the violence perpetrated by the white supremacists–no ifs, ands, or buts–leader of the McLean County Republican Party, Chuck Erickson, remained silent for almost three days after the events. Finally, on August 16th, he posted this to the party’s Facebook page: “Violence coming from the left, which also occurred in Charlottesville, or from the right, is wrong, regardless of the source. A common sense to statement to most people, but not today’s media, who only want to target the alt-right, and ignore any blame to the alt-left!”
Four days after the violent protests, McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael followed up with a similarly mealy-mouthed statement on her campaign page, saying of Erickson, “This man is no racist.” It took her 780 words to get her point across. Only 16 of those words upbraided Nazis and their supporters. The rest were devoted to complaining about how poor, maligned Republicans were being called racists when they actually weren’t.
And therein lies the problem. Conservatives are more concerned that they’ll be perceived as racist than they are with actual racism. For them, an accusation of racism is the ultimate slap in the face. Michael calls the notion that Erickson and other local conservatives might be racially prejudiced “dishonorable and nearly unforgivable” and “beyond deplorable.”
“I never thought we could come to this,” she says.
Her words could not have been more appropriate … had they been applied to the actions of white supremacists, one of whom mowed down a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring over a dozen people.
Instead, Michael reserved her strongest condemnation for the many people who criticized Erickson’s response.
Tomorrow, Erickson and the local GOP are hosting conservative pundit Nick Adams, who spoke at Illinois State University last night, at their annual picnic. Among other “accomplishments,” Adams has written a book entitled Retaking America: Crushing Political Correctness. Political correctness is, of course, conservative code for “I’m mad that I can’t use racial epithets and perpetuate stereotypes against minorities and women anymore without being called out for it.” (As it happens, Erickson praised Donald Trump on July 11th for being politically incorrect.)
Just how non-racist is Nick Adams?
Less than three years ago, he wrote the following post for his website: “Black in America? You’ve Got It Made.”
According to Adams, a white man, racism in the United States is “an infinitesimal problem.” Discussing and condemning racism is “victimhood and the culture of complaint.” He declares, “The US is the least racist society on earth. It is the best place in the world for a black to live. That’s why more black Africans have immigrated to the US voluntarily than came as slaves. It’s also why no black Americans have decided to leave America for anywhere, including black Africa.” The post is accompanied by an out-of-context picture of Ferguson protester Edward Crawford throwing a tear-gas canister away from protesters. (Implication: black people are violent.)
There is no evidence to back up Adams’ assertions, you just have to take his word for it. We could go on and on about the economic, legal, and social inequity that black Americans still grapple with, but facts either convince you or they don’t.
Unsurprisingly, local conservatives appear to be untroubled by Adams’ views. In fact, Tea Party blogger Diane Benjamin is more outraged that signs for Adams’ talk were defaced on the ISU campus. “Hate is very alive in Normal!” the headline for one of her recent blog posts insists.
Because the Normal Theater is screening Whose Streets?, a documentary about Mike Brown and the Ferguson protests. No doubt Benjamin agrees with her blog commenter Ronin who says, “Mike Brown was a thug, a wanna be gangster, end of, his unavoidable death was not the fault of the Ferguson Police, but rather the cumulative outcome of his behaviors not just THAT particular night but for several years,” for she lets the outrageous assertion go unchallenged, pausing only to remark, “Leftsts are always guilty of what they accuse others of.”
“Mike Brown wasn’t ‘killed” and his civil rights weren’t violated. He is dead because of HIS actions, not race, prejudice, or rights violations,” says Diane Benjamin. “The only reason to show this movie is to keep racial strife alive.”
As long as McLean County harbors unapologetic racists like this and people like Kathy Michael are willing to make excuses for them, racism will remain as alive as it did on the streets of Charlottesville on August 12th when a white nationalist screamed the n-word at a black counter-protester and then fired a bullet in his direction. Police standing by and watching the altercation didn’t twitch a muscle, and the white supremacist who had just committed an act of terrorism walked away unapprehended.