The road to Charlottesville is a superhighway. Like the Beltway that circles our nation’s capital, it is packed with travellers, filled to the point of gridlock. It runs by the Washington Monument, through the Jefferson Memorial, and yes, even into the lap of the Great Emancipator. It is clogged with people like you and me who produce a smog that filters the world around us through the logic of white supremacy.
The road to Charlottesville is a mighty traffic circle—at once our future and our past. It has a driveway into every home—an entryway into every American life. The goal of this issue is to map its ideological and physical expanse. In so doing, we hope to close some lanes or, at the very least, to make a few potholes.
Our “Road to Charlottesville” issue examines the many facets of white supremacy in the United States. It looks at local expressions of racism from Texas to Maine. Time and again, white supremacists have had the ear of local officials. Often, as Packer and Dotson remind us, they have even worn a badge and wielded the gavel, making a mockery of justice in the name of power. The strength of white supremacy lies at this local level, which gives it the flexibility to apply force broadly while denying incidents of white supremacist violence as the product of “bad apples.”
Yet white supremacy is much more than a system of locally applied force. It is also a superstructure of ideas providing ready explanations for the uncertainty of lived experience. These ideas oppose Catholics and radicals—anyone who might offer a vision of the world contrary to white power. Even DNA results showing “nonwhite” ancestry are subject to white supremacist explanation and revision. White supremacists at once adopt the banner of “moderates” while rejecting any semblance of equality as anti-white oppression. In a complicated and oft-frightening world, white supremacy offers simplicity and the veneer of in-group security.
In short, through a white-pandering politics and ideology, white supremacists have long rigged our system to their benefit.
Important works by Kusz, Sciullo, and Huber look at the cultural structures enabling white supremacy and attempt to envision a world beyond these forces. Huber, in particular, imagines that sound teaching methods might go a long way towards minimizing the appeal of racism. While historians and activists might note that this is exactly what white supremacists have worked to prevent for more than 150 years, Huber’s essay represents an important reminder that we have the tools we need to defeat racist pedagogies. These struggles over teaching methods and course content are not petty distractions. They are an essential plane of the struggle.
We hope the essays below help facilitate conversations about the ways in which white supremacy touches each of our communities as well as the language we use to describe ourselves and our aspirations. As Americans, racism is embedded in our national fabric, but maybe it doesn’t need to be. Maybe we can tear the garb of inequality and weave together a truly egalitarian garment from the frayed strands. It is, at least, a worthy goal.
Week 1: White Supremacists Down The Street Part 1
Ansley Quiros, “The Road to Charlottesville Runs Through Americus, Georgia”
David Rotenstein, “A 2002 Documentary that Whitewashes History Gets a New Coat in 2017”
Tyler Cline, “Labor Radicalism and Repression in the Woods of Maine”
Week 2: Who’s a Terrorist?: Whiteness and the State
Adrienne Chudzinski, “Labeling Terrorism: Public Responses to Racial Violence”
Tiffany G.B. Packer, Ph.D., “White Supremacist Violence from Greensboro to Charlottesville”
Dr. Lee Bebout and Kenneth Ladenburg, “Nobody’s a Nazi, or Denying Everyday White Supremacy and the Dangerous Lesson of Charlottesville”
Mid-Week 3: White Supremacists Down The Street Part 2
Rhys Dotson, “Hate Behind the Pine Curtain”
Alonzo Ward, “White Backlash in the Land of Lincoln: The Civil War Years”
Week 3: Recruiting Nazis and White Identity
Elodie Grossi, “Hate in the Blood: White Supremacists’ Use of DNA Ancestry Tests”
Sabrina Pischer, “Confederate Pepe: Remembering Confederacy in the Digital Age”
Kyle Kusz, “The Road to Charlottesville: The Role of Popular Culture in Priming Young White Men for the White Right”
Mid-Week 4: Confronting Pedagogies of White Power
Hannah Greene, “Review: Hitler’s American Model”
Nick Sciullo, “True News Moved Us Toward Charlottesville”
Liz Muñoz Huber, “Whose Heritage?: Building Understanding Through Better Teaching”
Week 4: Remembering White Supremacy
Matthew Mace Barbee, “White Supremacy and the Landscapes of Memory in Richmond, Virginia in the 1960s”
Ben Railton, “Segregated Cville”
Maarten Zwiers, “From Traitor to Martyr: Robert E. Lee and the Myth of White Victimhood”
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Our collected volume of essays, Demand the Impossible: Essays in History As Activism, is now available on Amazon! Based on research first featured on The Activist History Review, the twelve essays in this volume examine the role of history in shaping ongoing debates over monuments, racism, clean energy, health care, poverty, and the Democratic Party. Together they show the ways that the issues of today are historical expressions of power that continue to shape the present. Also, be sure to review our book on Goodreads and join our Goodreads group to receive notifications about upcoming promotions and book discussions for Demand the Impossible!
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