Racists are marching – again.
White supremacists are making good on their pledge to rally their hateful troops through the South: The next demonstration, entitled “White Lives Matter,” is scheduled for Shelbyville, Tennessee, population 20,000.
After the deadly protests by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, white supremacists vowed to continue protesting the removal of Confederate monuments.
The group, called The National Front, will protest in Shelbyville Oct. 28 and the organization also applied for a permit for a second rally in Murfreesboro, Tennessee later in the day.
The Nationalist Front website describes the group as “an umbrella organization to bring unity and solidarity to the White Nationalist Movement in North America.”
But these groups don’t bring unity – they bring hate.
It’s shameful. The protests are part of a wave of racist rallies by white supremacist groups that are feeling more emboldened after President Donald Trump’s election to the White House.
Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and his continued disdain for African-Americans and other people of color has further polarized the nation along racial lines.
I’m reading more stories about whites freely using the N-word, teachers trying students up with duct tape in the classroom to simulate slavery, and Trump outwardly signaling to police that it’s acceptable to rough up residents in urban centers.
Meanwhile, residents in Shelbyville are preparing for an unwanted rally.
“I think we can affect the national discourse for this, but I also think in Shelbyville, for the minorities, for the people of color and the Jews, this is going to be a chance to say ‘It’s not the 1950s anymore,’ ” Chris Irwin, an attorney aligned with the Tennessee Anti-Racist Network, told reporters. “These guys don’t get to walk the streets unopposed in their robes anymore. These towns belong to us, not them.”
Although hate groups are on the rise, according to The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes, the Center says The National Front is struggling.
“Touted by its co-founders as the new nucleus the organized hate movement would gather around, the Nationalist Front is floundering. Broke, bleeding member organizations and bereft of leaders with the vision to match their voices, the fledgling organization is hardly the blitzkrieg its founders imagined when NF was formed last fall,” according to the Center.
Still, The National Front is working on recruiting for its ranks in small towns across the South.
“As I understand it, they’re looking for a community that’s welcoming to them,” Sharon Edwards, chair of the Bedford County (Tenn.) Democratic Party, where Shelbyville is located, told The Tennessean.
“They’re looking for a place where they can recruit people and just sort of feel at home. My hope is that all the businesses participate, and everywhere they drive, they’re faced with the fact that Shelbyville does not want them here.”
Pushing back against racist groups like The National Front is necessary and non-violent counter-protests are being planned in Shelbyville and other cities across the country.
White supremacists need to know they are not welcomed in these small towns – or anywhere – and Irwin and Edwards should be commended for taking a stand.
But for now, the rally by white supremacists is still scheduled for Shelbyville in two weeks.
It’s a precarious crusade that conjures ugly images of the Jim Crow era and spurs a conversation about history repeating itself.
What do you think?
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