Last Year, White Nationalists Staged a Fatal Race Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Location Was No Coincidence.

Last Year, White Nationalists Staged a Fatal Race Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Location Was No Coincidence.

Virginians have largely forgotten the monument’s dedication, but there is a clear thread connecting Alderman’s speech to our present battles over collective identities and the history of racial oppression. One year ago, on August 11 and 12, 2017, white nationalists from around the country gathered to protest the planned removal of the Lee monument. Following the alt-right’s violent occupation of Charlottesville’s streets and the murder of Heather Heyer, moderate Virginians have insisted that the Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other extremist groups do not represent who ‘we’ are. But, in their fight for the monument, the white nationalists displayed a better understanding of the statue’s significance, and of the legacy of state-sponsored, pseudo-scientific apartheid that most Virginians prefer to ignore. In fact, just two months before Alderman praised Lee’s Anglo-Saxon “stock,” Virginia signed into law the Racial Integrity Act and the Eugenical Sterilization Act, two laws that used an ‘objective’ scientific veneer to officially consolidate Virginia’s white-supremacist body politic. Those laws remained on the books far longer than most Virginians realize, sanctioning a racist program of forced sterilization and shaping the political identity of Virginia for generations. It was that repressed history – a history that white nationalists know and embrace – that resurfaced as Charlottesville’s Unite the Right race riot in the summer of 2017.

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