Matthew Riley is a sophomore journalism major at MU. He is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.
A recent study by the Washington Post reveals that 9 percent of Americans believe it is acceptable to hold neo-Nazi or white supremacist views, with an additional 8 percent feeling indifferent. Among strong supporters of the president, those numbers increase to three in 10. A year ago, this finding would be jaw-dropping. Not anymore. Not since the election of Donald J. Trump, a man whose unapologetic xenophobia and Islamophobia are well documented.
In an America in which the president flaunts controversial and extreme ideology, there’s no need to hide in online forums. As the world saw in Charlottesville, Virginia, not two weeks ago at the “Unite the Right” rally, white supremacy is alive and well, organized and dangerous.
On Aug. 12, Heather Heyer died protesting hatred. James Alex Fields Jr., a man with ties to white supremacy groups, drove his car into a crowd of people protesting the Charlottesville rally, killing Heyer and injuring others.
By taking days to condemn the rally and by blaming the counter-protesters as well as white supremacists and neo-Nazis, Trump empowered such actions to happen again. One could argue that many in the white nationalist spectrum took Trump’s prolonged silence on the matter as condoning their actions, if not as a tacit endorsement. Given the length of his silence, leaders of the far right may be able to claim Trump was merely playing a part, that he didn’t mean his condemnation. They may be right.
So what possible good could have come from this horrid event? How, in the aftermath of this violence, could I have found hope? The dissenters. I found hope in people rallying together in protest, people mocking and people marching. Americans gathered together to say, “Hey, this is our America and it’s for everyone, regardless of race, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or country of origin.”
White nationalists may have marched in Virginia, but they were met by those who will not stand for hate, and that gives me hope. As I watch protesters topple a Confederate statue in North Carolina, that hope flourishes. As thousands counter protest in Boston, it crescendos. It's time to take back America for the many, not the few. To rally for equality, not for hate.
There may be more people in this country with whom I morally and ideologically disagree with than I had ever known, but there are also more people like me, who hate what Trump stands for, who love diversity and who respect and believe in that beautiful creed that all men are created equal than I could ever have imagined.