Here is a joint statement from two former presidents.

 “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms.  As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights.  We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”

The message of President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush is in response to the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017.  The words are nice and make us feel good but the words of our two former leaders miss the point.

The fundamental question is do we believe in the freedom of speech and freedom to peaceably assemble?  These rights are protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment.  Freedom of speech is not enshrined in the Constitution to protect someone’s right to recite nursery rhymes.  It is in place to protect the rights of those engaging potentially offensive commentary.  Similarly, the right to peaceably assemble is in place to protect those members of society who may want gather to protest against something that is popular and this right also protects those who may, themselves, be politically unpopular.

Here are a few things we know:

  • There were a group of Americans, many of whom were white nationalists (and those with similar ideologies), who gathered under the banner of “Unite the Right” to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee
  • This group received a permit to gather
  • The statue of Lee had been located at Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park, and the Unite the Right rally took place at this location
  • Among those who marched in opposition to the rally were Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and the Democratic Socialists of America
  • Those who marched in opposition to Unite the Right had no permit to gather
  • The two groups confronted each other and created a disturbance with violence against the other
  • A young man, who would later be identified as James Fields, a man fascinated by Nazis, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, which resulted in the death of one woman

Many of the white nationalists were armed, largely because they felt that they could not rely on law enforcement to protect them.  The fact that the Unite the Right rally members were armed does not imply that they were not there to peaceably assemble.

To discuss this event is not easy in today’s America.  Discussion of this is loaded with landmines.  Understandably, one does not want to be seen as defending white supremacist or the KKK.  The question, however, is this: Does the Constitution protect those whom we find offensive, evil, or disgusting?  The answer is yes.  For many American however, it is not an unequivocal yes, and for others, the answer appears to be no.  Like the Bushes, media personalities, politicians, and many in the public at large are focused on the shiny object of racism.  As a result, it is difficult for them to focus on what actually happened.  Being against racism is clearly good, but in recent years it has risen to the level of national religion.  Many Americans, whenever they witness racism or racists, reflexively want to tell everyone one within earshot how much they detest it or detest them.  Again, detesting racism is a good thing, especially given some aspects of American history — but are we really willing to shred our Constitution just so that everyone can see that we are good people?

The right for the Unite the Right rally members to assemble peaceably is protected by the First Amendment.  Their speech is protected by the First Amendment.  Most importantly, the members of the rally, themselves, are protected by the First Amendment.  Their ideology does not exempt them from Constitutional protection, however we may feel about the sentiments some among them may spew.  It is worth repeating though that the reason for the rally was to protest the removal the statue of Robert E. Lee and the renaming of the park.

Had the counter-protesters not shown up to confront the Unite the Right members, there would have been no violence.  Fields driving his car into the crowd complicates matters but he likely would not have driven his car into crowd of counter-protesters had the counter-protesters not been there.  The woman who lost her life would likely still be among the living.

The way to deal with such an event is to give them as little attention as possible.  Less attention would send the message that they’re a dying breed and they will have less ability to inspire other to join their cause.  I suspect (and fear) that because of the commotion in Charlottesville, the rally members may gain more support for their cause.

President Trump has received much criticism due to his saying that both sides had a hand in the violence on Saturday, August 12.  Many feel that he is wrong to create an equivalence between the white nationalists on the one side and the coalition of groups that formed the counter-protesters on the other.  I agree that he was wrong.  The lion’s share of the blame rests with the trouble-seeking counter-protesters.

Black Lives

Just over thirty years ago, many of my fellow students were protesting the against the apartheid government in South Africa, which implemented a system of racial segregation and discrimination.  There was a movement at Penn State, as with other colleges and universities nationwide, led by the organization Black Student Coalition Against Racism (BSCAR), to demonstrate against university’s investment holdings in South Africa.  From the building of a shantytown on campus to sit-ins, the students involved were serious about pressuring the administration to divest.  Others in the student body, to show their solidarity with the oppressed blacks in South Africa, refused to drink Coca-Cola due to the soft drink company’s sizable presence in the country’s economy.

Today in Africa, there are a number of countries such as Sudan and Mauritania that have enslaved black populations.  It is true that the enslaved populations are a minority in these countries and it is also true that the governments of these countries are not actively promoting slavery but the slavery that exists cannot be described as insignificant.  Human trafficking in these countries leads to women and, sometimes, young girls being sexually exploited.  Often, those doing the enslaving are Arab Muslims.  The fact that there is slavery in Africa today is rarely mentioned on television news.  Politicians holding or seeking federal offices rarely, if ever, speak about this issue; I have only heard Sarah Palin speak about this.  And I know of no movement on a college or university campus that is devoted to ridding slavery from these countries.

However bad South African apartheid was, it was certainly no worse than slavery.

It appears that black exploitation will be tolerated so long as whites are not the ones causing it.

In 2001, President Bill Clinton, having just left office, was searching for a place for post-presidential foundation office.  After a political misstep, he ended up, with the help of U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), finding an office space in Harlem, a neighborhood in the northern part of Manhattan.  Throughout much of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, Harlem has had a black majority.  There was lots of excitement that a former president would move his office into this neighborhood.  However, I recall residents being interviewed about the prospect of Bill Clinton moving in and there was one business owner who was not pleased by this very real possibility.  He predicted that property values would go up and that the long-time residents and business owners would be forced to move.  This prediction did not require lots of insight as this was often result of gentrification.  And despite the anticipation of Clinton coming to town, that Harlem business owner was not alone in this prediction.

Gentrification of urban, largely black neighborhoods is not normally welcomed by the residents.  In addition to property values going up, the neighborhood itself would change.  With the nicer restaurants, health clubs, and bicycle paths, comes a highly-educated, higher income, younger, whiter population, and in most cases, is accompanied by the displacement of black residents.  The very character of the place, long-time residents called home for decades, changes into something they do not recognize.  This has taken place in a number of cities in the U.S., including Washington, D.C. and San Francisco.  The word gentrification has a negative connotation; largely due to the resulting displacing of a portion of the existing population, which is almost always a black population.  Despite its benefits, including lower crime rates, gentrification has a bad name in some circles.  There have been protests against gentrification in some cities around the country such as Brooklyn and Los Angeles.  And filmmaker Spike Lee has publicly spoken out against it.

There has been talk for the past decade about “reforming” the U.S. immigration system.  Part of that reformation is what to do with the millions of illegal aliens — mostly from Mexico — already in the country.  Most of the elected officials in the Democratic Party and sizable chunk of the Republican Party want to provide a path to citizenship for those here in the country unlawfully.  Providing citizenship to those illegally in the country will, among other things, cause increased unemployment in low-skilled professions as many of the new citizens will leave the underground economy and find work in the general economy, where there are normal hours with health & retirement benefits.  Among those who will find increased competition (and increased unemployment) will be black Americans, who are disproportionately in low-skilled professions.  Providing citizenship to those illegally in the country will also cause displacement of Americans, mostly black Americans as many formerly illegal aliens will come out of hiding and, with new, better-paying jobs, will move into neighborhoods with better housing.  One reason we can predict this is that this is already happening.  Many once largely black neighborhoods across the country are now less black and more Hispanic.  One hears about this on call-in shows on talk radio or you may hear this in casual conversation with blacks who have seen this displacement.  However, one will not hear about this in the mainstream media, nor will anyone among the black elites discuss this on television or radio.

This displacement trend will no doubt continue if we provide legal status to those in the country illegally.

It appears that black displacement from their communities will be tolerated so long as whites are not the ones causing it.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of focus on police departments and their relationship with black Americans.  This renewed focus is due to deaths of black men as a result of interactions with law enforcement.  The first of these was the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, who, incidentally, was not killed by a police officer but a night watchman in self-defense.  The second was the death of Michael Brown, who was shot by Officer Darren Wilson, after being attacked by Brown.  The third was Eric Garner, who was not shot but after resisting arrest, was wrestled to the ground by a police officer, after placing Garner in a chokehold; Garner died shortly afterwards, due to having had difficulty breathing from the encounter.  The Black Lives Matter movement came about and gained steam due to these three events.

Black homicide victims are killed by other black civilians over 90% of the time.  They are victims of police shootings about 4% of the time.  This is quite a disparity.  While it is true that the public holds law enforcement to a higher standard, the level of shooting deaths of blacks is not the result of cops.  Black commentators, the press, and, to a large extent, the public are focused on the wrong culprit.  It is blacks that are killing blacks, particularly young black males, at an alarming rate.  White police officers sometimes make mistakes in a split-second decision to shoot a suspect and, perhaps, there are a few rogue police officers who are indifferent to the value of black life, but it is young black men who are making life difficult for their many law-abiding black neighbors.

Few in the media comment on the criminality that exists within black America.

It appears that black murders will be tolerated so long as white are not the ones causing it.

It is time for black Americans to wake up.  It is time for black Americans to stop accepting this level of violence in their communities.  It is time for black Americans to recognize that those who claim that black lives matter do not give a damn about black lives.