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Charlottesville panel tackles white supremacy

This past week members of the Political Science and International Relations departments came together to analyze what happened at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and why it happened. Professors John McMahon, Phil Chen, Beth Dougherty and John Rapp discussed the various reasons white supremacy persists in the world with Rachel Ellett moderating the discussion.

The panel started with McMahon discussing the hidden predatory state in our society made up of white supremacists. He went on to explain that these groups function by driving out other groups. McMahon continued, saying that American society has only ever included certain subset groups, who allow the predatory state to continue.

These ideas of McMahon’s hearken back to the ideas of implicit racism, which is readily noticeable but persists in society. McMahon implored the audience to consider how normal white supremacy is, thinking about how these white supremacists are able to continue in society without facing repercussions for their outright hate.

Chen used McMahon’s comments as a springboard to start discussing symbolic racism, or beliefs that are not explicitly racist on their face value, but actually are. Chen pointed out that white supremacist rallies are organised because there is a threat to the white political system. The threat to the current social hierarchy causes the groups in power to act with hatred or violence.

Because this violence is a result of an attack on the hierarchy, Chen said that this can be looked at as a somewhat good thing. If the social hierarchy is threatened then we must be doing something right, and we need to continue pushing back.

Dougherty tackled the pushback against taking down Confederate statues by discussing post-war monuments in Bosnia. In Mostar, Bosnia, there was a 100-foot cross on the hill where the artillery was launched from, and the church’s bell tower was built so high it could be seen from anywhere within the city.

The monuments were erected to declare dominance over the less privileged groups, which Dougherty said relates to the way statues of confederate soldiers are erected in the South. Relating to Charlottesville, Dougherty said the Robert E. Lee statue only served the purpose of reminding people who controls Charlottesville, not honoring Lee.

Rapp turned the discussion more towards fascism and neo-fascism rather than specifically addressing Charlottesville. Rapp’s main takeaway seemed to be that these fascist groups feel the need to scapegoat minority groups and blame them for their loss of power, or perceived loss of power.

After the professors gave their opinions about the latest white supremacist movements, Ellett opened up the conversation to the audience, allowing quick questions before the end of the session. Overall, the Charlottesville panel gave an explanation not only for the white supremacist movement that happened there, but the white supremacist thoughts and actions that have been occurring recently.

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