Category Archives: Race and race relations

Authorities Warned about Charlottesville Clashes

State and local officials had plenty of warning before the infamous white-supremacist rally that led to a fatality and multiple injuries earlier this month. Politico quotes a Department of Homeland Security warning that an escalating series of clashes had created a powder keg that would likely make the event “among the most violent to date” between white supremacists and anarchists.

The assessment, says Politico, “raises questions about whether Charlottesville city and Virginia state authorities dropped the ball before, and during, a public event that was widely expected to draw huge crowds of armed, emotional and antagonistic participants from around the country.”

The Aug. 9 assessment by the DHS Office of Intelligence and analysis, was made in coordination with state, local and federal authorities at the Virginia Fusion center. “Anarchist extremists” had attacked white supremacists at previous gatherings, leading to fights, injuries and arrests.

Both sides were clearly gearing up for an unprecedented confrontation in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally and a weekend of events planned around it by white supremacist rally organizers and those protesting it.

“Anarchist extremists and white supremacist extremists online are calling on supporters to be prepared for or to instigate violence at the 12 August rally,” the assessment warned.

One “probable” white supremacist, it said, had posted an online “call to arms,” saying “antifa must be destroyed.”

“They predicted it,” one senior law enforcement analyst from another state said of the assessment. Each side was saying, “’All right everybody, go get your weapons, and we’re gonna go kick their asses.’ And that’s exactly what happened in Charlottesville.”

Bacon’s bottom line: This revelation puts more heat on state and local authorities to explain their actions on Aug. 12. Why did the police remain passive for so long? Could they have averted the tragedy by intervening earlier, more aggressively, or differently?

Any inquiry into the events on that fateful day should be viewed in the context of the moral posturing by Charlottesville’s mayor and Virginia’s governor denouncing the white supremacists (who richly deserved the criticism) without mentioning the contribution of “anti-fascist” elements to the violence. No one takes a political risk excoriating Nazis and racists — 99% percent of all Americans would agree. But rebuking Antifa and other anarchists… that’s not so easy. Many Americans are ambivalent, especially on the Left. While they may not approve of Antifa’s violent tactics, some politicians and pundits seem to think the nihilist group’s anti-Nazi, anti-KKK, anti-Trump sentiments confer it with moral legitimacy.

Take Down the Jefferson Davis Statue. Erect One to Alexander T. Augusta

Alexander T. Augusta — a native Virginian, and the highest-ranking black to serve the Union army.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch makes a good recommendation regarding the Civil War statues on Monument Ave: Take down the statue to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.

Society may be too divided to find common ground on this issue, but if compromise is possible, then removing Davis’ statue would be a key element of any settlement. Unlike Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, and Stonewall Jackson, Davis was not a native Virginian. He was an unrepentant advocate of slavery, not conflicted morally in any way. He was not a soldier; he did not uphold martial virtues such as courage, leadership and tactical brilliance on the battlefield. And he did nothing to bind the wounds of the Civil War. There really is nothing good to be said about the man today. His statue should be moved to the Museum of the Confederacy or some such institution for display as a historical artifact.

What would be displayed in Davis’ place? Some have suggested honoring General George H. Thomas, a native Virginian who chose to serve in the Union army and who also distinguished himself during the war. A statue to Thomas would be in keeping with the theme of Civil War generals on Monument Ave, and it would replace a now-universally reviled figure with an admirable one.

An even better candidate would be Lt. Col. Alexander T. Augusta, the highest-ranking African-American to serve in the Union army. Born in Norfolk as a free black, Augusta learned to read while working as a barber. Leaving Virginia, he struggled against discrimination to pursue his goal of becoming a physician. Eventually, he succeeded, and in 1863, he was commissioned as Regimental Surgeon of the Seventh U.S. Colored Troops, an office he served with distinction. After the war, he promoted the self-help movement among former slaves, served as the first black faculty member of the Howard University medical school, and fought discrimination against African-Americans, as can be seen in his Wikipedia profile.

Replacing a statue of Jefferson Davis with one dedicated to Alexander T. Augusta, a military man and an exemplar of many virtues, would preserve the unique character of Monument Ave., eliminate the least defensible of its Confederate statues, and honor an admirable and accomplished African-American who has received less recognition than he deserved. Combine this idea with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s idea of installing signage to provide the historical context of the remaining statues, and we can avoid blotting out all reminders of a politically incorrect past.

Petersburg’s School Cheating Scandal

As if the City of Petersburg didn’t have enough problems recovering from its fiscal meltdown, now it has a school cheating scandal on its hands. The Virginia Department of Education discovered a suspicious pattern of answers in Standards of Learning (SOL) tests indicating that test-takers were coached to switch from incorrect answers to correct answers. Reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Some students at A.P. Hill Elementary School in Petersburg had to raise a hand after answering questions on state accountability tests last spring for a proctor to check their work. If the answer was correct, they could move on to the next question. If it was not, the students were told to check their work.

Others made rapid-fire corrections to wrong answers within minutes before submitting computerized tests, data show.

Five staff members who administered the tests have lost their jobs. One employee, who begged to be removed from testing duties, likened the test results rigging to the Atlanta cheating scandal.

Bacon’s bottom line: Needless to say, Petersburg school children are not well served when people believe they are performing better than they actually are. The only beneficiaries of cheating are the school staff, who win accolades for improved test performances.

Now, let’s go back to the previous post about the decline in the percentage of African-American students enrolled in America’s most prominent universities, and the explanation offered by the New York Times:

Experts say that persistent underrepresentation often stems from equity issues that begin earlier. Elementary and secondary schools with large numbers of black and Hispanic students are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, high-quality instructional materials and adequate facilities….

That’s the standard narrative, and it is woefully misleading. I discussed in the previous post how the biggest disadvantage suffered by African-American students is the much higher probability of being raised in fatherless families. All too often, they suffer a double handicap in attending failing schools. But why are their schools failing? Is it a matter of racism, discrimination, or unequal distribution of resources?

Petersburg, which I believe is the poorest-performing school district in Virginia, spent $11,179 per student on average in 2010 (the most recent data I could find), just a hair shy of the $11,316 state average. Of course Petersburg has more than its share of disadvantaged and special-needs students, but it’s not as if the school district has been living on a penurious budget.

If Petersburg students have less experienced teachers, fewer advanced courses, aging school buildings, and lesser-quality school materials, could one of the reasons be maladministration? We know the city government is a fiscal disaster. We know there’s staff-organized cheating in the schools, and that the cheating was caught by the Virginia Department of Education, not the school administration. Is it not possible that Petersburg has a severely dysfunctional school administration, and that inept management has compounded the challenges of poverty?

These are the questions we should be asking. Instead, we’re focusing on the statues of Civil War generals. Tear down every Civil War statue, you won’t help one Petersburg school child. Tear down the statues of every slave holder, and you won’t help one Petersburg school child. Tear down the statues of all those who held views that would be considered racist today, including Abraham Lincoln, and you won’t help one Petersburg school child. The obsession with statuary reflects a doubling-down on the paradigm of irredeemable American racism even Great Society institutions crumble around us. Innocent black school children are the most tragic victims of this blindness.

What Happened to Institutional Racism?

Graphic credit: New York Times. Asians and Hispanics have made large percentage enrollment gains at UVa in concert with their dramatic population growth in the state, while white percentage has fallen. Black enrollment has declined from 10% to 7%.

Even after decades of affirmative action, the New York Times has found, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago.

“The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans,” writes a NY Times reporting team. “More Hispanics are attending elite schools, but the increase has not kept up with the huge growth of young Hispanics in the United States, so the gap between students and the college-age population has widened.”

Blacks and Hispanics have gained ground at less selective colleges and universities but not at the highly selective institutions, the article says. Whites are slightly more “over-represented” than they were, but Asians have scored the biggest gains. In effect, Asians are displacing blacks and Hispanics.

The numbers provide quite the quandary for the New York Times. If higher education were judged by the same criteria as the private sector, one might readily conclude that the statistical disparity in racial representation reflects evidence of discrimination. Yet higher-ed, one of the most liberal-minded institutions in the country, has made a fetish of multiculturalism and diversity and has aggressively recruited blacks and Hispanics.

In seeking an explanation for the seeming contradiction between noble words and ignoble performance, the Times has stumbled upon an interesting explanation:

Experts say that persistent underrepresentation often stems from equity issues that begin earlier.

Elementary and secondary schools with large numbers of black and Hispanic students are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, high-quality instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United State Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“There’s such a distinct disadvantage to begin with,” said David Hawkins, an executive director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “A cascading set of obstacles all seem to contribute to a diminished representation of minority students in highly selective colleges.”

I don’t recall such a charitable explanation ever being invoked to let private industry off the hook for racial employment gaps, which in their case are regarded as prima facie evidence racial discrimination. So, the article represents progress of a sort. But the Times still doesn’t get it quite right. To be sure, a lack of experienced teachers, advanced courses and adequate facilities may provide some of the explanation. But the phenomena of Asian over-performance and black and Hispanic under-performance applies is repeated over and over within the same school districts and even the same schools. The gap is sociological in origin.

National Review’s David French frames the issue this way:

The cohort that’s most overrepresented in American colleges and universities, Asian Americans, also happens to have the lowest percentage of nonmarital births in the United States. In fact, the greater the percentage of nonmarital births, the worse the educational outcomes. Only 16.4 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander children are born into nonmarried households. For white, Hispanic, and black Americans the percentages are 29.2, 53, and 70.6, respectively. Taken together, that means that staggering numbers of Hispanic and black children face a degree of family stress and uncertainty that their white and Asian peers simply don’t experience.

Compare children from married households, and most of the gap between Asians, Whites, blacks and Hispanics disappears. Not all of it, but most of it.

(Also part of the explanation is attitudinal differences between groups. For example, parents of Asian families are less likely to care about their children being “happy” or “popular,” or “finding themselves” than are their white socioeconomic peers. Consequently, they drive their children to excel academically. Asian-Americans tend to be more willing to defer present gratification for the future reward of attending an excellent college and pursuing a lucrative career.)

Academia has done much to perpetuate the idea that America is irredeemably racist, and that disparities in racial/ethnic representation are evidence of discrimination. I would love to hoist campus liberals on their own petard. “Hah! By your own criteria, you discriminate against minorities. You’re racist!” As tempting as it would be to take such a cheap shot, I refrain. College admissions officers can’t be held responsible for the fact that fewer black and Hispanics graduate from high school, just as high schools can’t be blamed for the fact that students from poor families and broken homes are less academically prepared by the time they reach 9th grade, and so on down the line.

The root causes of inequality are complex. It’s refreshing to see the New York Times implicitly acknowledge a piece of that reality.

(Hat tip: Reed Fawell.)

How to Protect Civil War Statues

Photo credit: Virginia Flaggers

If you want to preserve the statues of Civil War generals, there are two ways to go about it. One is to align yourself with white nationalists, spew racial vitriol, evoke the terror of the KKK by brandishing torches, arm yourself to the teeth, mix it up with Antifa and other Lefties, and mow people down with a car.

The other is to conduct yourself in the same manner as the Virginia Flaggers in Lynchburg. Hearing rumors that statues of Jubal Early and others were targeted for vandalism, the Flaggers set up protective patrols, backed by the Lynchburg police. Then, according to the organization’s Facebook page, this happened:

Late in the evening, one of the monument guards noticed this woman, who later identified as a black lives matter supporter, trembling and shaking with fear. He said he could tell she honestly feared them. He walked up to her, arms outstretched, said “we are not KKK” and she grabbed him and wouldn’t let go. He explained that they were here to stop all of this and prevent another Charlottesville. He said “If I were KKK would I hold you like this and she said “NO”.

They talked for some time and he said we have to work together to stop this mess. She wept and thanked him over and over for coming over to her and they parted ways with new understanding.

I doubt the encounter changed anyone’s mind about the appropriateness of Civil War statues in public places, but perhaps a few people parted ways mindful of the humanity of those on the other side of the controversy.

Statue Controversy a Fixation of the Elites

Twilight of the Confederate statues

Last night I engaged in a deep and satisfying discussion about the Charlottesville tragedy with a group of men with whom I have met monthly over some 15 years to discuss politics and philosophy. Although I would describe those in attendance last night as  seven moderate liberals and one libertarian/ conservative (me), we shared common ground not only in our rejection of far Right extremism but in our concern about violence emanating from the far Left as well as the nation’s increasing political polarization. And, while I was the odd man out on the issue of statues honoring Civil War heroes — the others mostly favored removing them — I was impressed by the range and nuance of views expressed, and by the fact that everyone seemed to acknowledge that competing principles were at play. It was a far superior, and more civil, discussion than anything I have witnessed in the media, and it gives me hope that the nation is not as deeply divided as we tend to believe.

Naturally, as all conversations inevitably do, the discussion turned to President Trump, in particular his pronouncements on the subject of the Charlottesville violence and the fate of the Civil War statues. Some of my friends speculated that Trump at long last had gone too far, lunging so far beyond the pale of civilized discourse, that he had virtually no chance of being re-elected.

I said I wasn’t so sure. While America’s intelligentsia, whose views are magnified by media loudspeakers, is united in its visceral opposition to Trump, we have little sense of what the working class thinks. If Trump’s economic policies succeed (or if by plain dumb luck the economy continues to improve on his watch), and if the unemployment rate continues to decline, and the working class and middle class start seeing solid wage gains for the first time in a decade, he might well get re-elected. Indeed, I suggested, Trump might even see an increase in Hispanic and African-American votes. After all, the primary preoccupation of the working class is jobs and wages. 

I had no data to back up my propositions; I was simply voicing a hunch. Fortuitously, however, a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll of 1,125 adults across the country was published this morning that confirms that hunch.

The headliner finding was that only 35% of adults approve of “the job Donald Trump is doing as president” while 51% disapprove. I’m not sure how insightful that question is given the fact that some might support his policies despite finding him grotesque as a person and inadequate as a leader. (As coincidence would have it, I talked to my brother this morning, and he expressed that very opinion.)

Regardless, here’s what’s remarkable. Among those who approve of Trump, the racial breakdown was as follows:

White – 43%
African-American – 10%
Latino – 25%

According to exit polls, Trump claimed 8% of the African-American vote last year, and 29% of the Hispanic vote. For all the controversy, he has lost no ground with minorities. Let’s see what happens as the economy continues to grow.

Will Trump’s stance on the Civil War statues, roundly denounced in the media, hurt him with voters? The pollsters asked the following question: “Do you think statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy should: Remain as a historical symbol, or Be removed because they are offensive to some people?”

Sixty-two percent of all Americans want to leave the statues alone, compared to 27% who want to get rid of them — a margin of more than two to one. Among lower-income households (making less than $50,000 per year), 65% favored letting them remain as a historical symbol. Among non-college graduates, 68% favored letting them remain. Among the racial/ethnic groups, the breakdown looked like this:

Latinos apparently don’t feel like they have a dog in this fight. Like whites, they favor leaving the statues alone by a 2 1/2-to-one margin. The most astonishing finding was that the African-Americans community is evenly divided on the issue. For all their hyper-ventilating outrage, talking heads on CNN and MSNBC evidently do not speak for all African-Americans. My guess is that working-class African-Americans have other concerns. Agitation over Civil War statues is the luxury of the well fed, well dressed and financially secure.

Update: Some of the poll data was scary and, frankly, hard to believe. When asked, “From what you have heard or seen about each of the following, do you mostly agree or disagree with their beliefs: the white supremacy movement?” Mostly agree:

Whites – 3%
African-Americans – 4%
Latinos – 7%

More African-Americans agree with the beliefs of the white supremacy movement than whites? C’mon. Must be a fluke. But, then, look at the answers to the question asking respondents if they mostly agreed with “white nationalists”:

Whites – 4%
African-Americans – 3%
Latinos – 11%

And the “Alt-Right”:

Whites – 4%
African-Americans – 4%
Latinos – 11%

And the Ku Klux Klan:

Whites – 1%
African-Americans – 2%
Latinos – 6%


Demanding Truth from Those in Power

Terry McAuliffe speaking to CBS News. Who’s telling the truth — the governor or the state police spokesperson?

The national media rightfully calls out President Trump for making outrageous statements such as his infamous line that there were “some very fine people on both sides” of the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville Saturday. Really?

I know that there were some “very fine” people among the peaceful counter-protesters in Charlottesville — one, a gentle and peaceful woman, was a friend who conducted my daughter’s wedding ceremony and also led a family prayer wishing me a speedy recovery from my hip replacement surgery. (If there is a God, it appears that the Big Guy listened. My recovery is going splendidly.) Would the president care to enumerate the “very fine” people among the Nazis, Klansmen and affiliated white supremacists who traveled from around the country to participate in an event designed to stir up trouble? He can’t name any. He deserves the lambasting he’s received for making such a statement.

The question here in the Old Dominion is, will Virginia’s media call out Governor Terry McAuliffe for making unsubstantiated (though less emotionally charged) statements, the likes of which, had they issued from the mouth of Donald Trump, would be branded immediately as lies?

C.J. Ciaramella with the Reason Foundation’s  Hit & Run blog writes the following:

In an interview Monday on the Pod Save the People podcast, hosted by Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson, McAuliffe claimed the white nationalists who streamed into Charlottesville that weekend hid weapons throughout the town.

“They had battering rams and we had picked up different weapons that they had stashed around the city,” McAuliffe told Mckesson.

The Virginia State Police also disputed McAuliffe’s claims that Virginia State Police were underequipped to deal with the heavily armed militia members at Saturday’s rally.

“The governor was referencing the weapons and tactical gear the members of various groups attending the rally had on their persons,” Geller says. “I can assure you that the Virginia State Police personnel were equipped with more-than-adequate specialized tactical and protective gear for the purpose of fulfilling their duties to serve and protect those in attendance of the August 12 event in Charlottesville.”

McAuliffe claimed in an interview with The New York Times that law enforcement arrived to find a line of militia members who “had better equipment than our State Police had.” In longer comments that were later edited out of the Times‘ story, McAuliffe said that up to 80 percent of the rally attendees were carrying semi-automatic weapons. “You saw the militia walking down the street, you would have thought they were an army,” he said.

That’s Ciaramella’s framing of the issue. The Reason Foundation, a Libertarian organization, is a credible group and certainly no apologist for Nazis and Klansmen or their white-identity politics. Assuming this is a fair summary of the facts, someone needs to dig to the bottom of these conflicting statements. Who gave the accurate accounting — McAuliffe or the Virginia State Police spokesperson? If McAuliffe misspoke, will anyone call him on it?

These questions are part of a larger issue that Virginia’s media have been tip-toeing around. Did the Charlottesville police and State Police bungle the handling of the Saturday demonstration? According to some reports, when clearing the demonstration area at McIntire Park, the police herded the white supremacists into close proximity to the counter-protesters, and that’s when the worst melees broke out. Of course, anyone can claim anything. But do we have a clear idea from authoritative sources what did happen? Do we know who made the command decisions? I’ve seen a lot of ass-covering statements, but no systematic sorting of the facts. Are Virginia’s media interested in finding out, or are they satisfied with the narrative concocted by the national media? 

Here’s one reason people will want answers in the future, even if they are not clamoring for them right now. The Alt Right is developing a line of argumentation that James Allen Fields, driver of the car that killed Heather Heyer, undoubtedly will adopt in his defense. Fields, they say, was driving around disoriented in a strange town when he was set upon by Lefties. He accelerated his car to escape them, accidentally plowing into the crowd, put on his brakes when he realized what was happening. Within seconds (and this is viewable on videotape), armed counter-protesters swarmed the vehicle, struck the car with sticks and clubs, and bashed in the rear window. Panicking, Fields threw the car into reverse, toppling attackers like bowling pins.

Please note, I am not making this argument, I’m not excusing Fields, I’m not blaming the counter-protesters, and I’m not engaging in moral equivalency. I’m noting arguments circulated on the Internet that will likely preview Field’s defense. In what is shaping up to be Charlottesville’s trial of the century, Field’s attorneys assuredly will try to shift the blame to others. Besides blaming the counter-protesters, they will blame city and state authorities for making the decisions that unleashed the chaos and precipitated the chain of events leading to the car killing.

It won’t help the cause of justice if McAuliffe is caught making stuff up.

In closing, let me reiterate that I’m not defending white supremacists. Nazis are evil. Klansmen are evil. White supremacists are evil. They picked Charlottesville, Charlottesville didn’t pick them. They spewed hatred and vitriol. They came prepared for violence, and they dished it out. They deserve the full punishment of the law. I wish they had never come to Virginia, and I hope they all go home and never come back. But McAuliffe, who didn’t have a credibility problem before, might have one now.

Good Job, *&#$-Heads

The white nationalists who sparked violent confrontations in Charlottesville Saturday pose as champions of Western Civilization, white rights, Confederate heritage, and the like, but they managed only to discredit what they supposedly value. Photographs and video images of Confederate battle flags interspersed with Nazi and KKK regalia indelibly reinforced the association in the public mind between the battle flag, hate and prejudice. An appreciation of Southern heritage, including the statues of Civil War generals, need not equate with bigotry. But it will be a lot harder to persuade anyone of that now.

Meanwhile, the morning news brings the revelation that Bragdon Bowling, who had applied for permission to hold a pro-statue rally at the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, may reconsider holding the rally on the grounds that he doesn’t want violent people showing up. Bowling had hoped to hold the rally in the context of the (mostly) civil debate initiated by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney over how to contextualize the history of the city’s Civil War statuary.

“Things have changed somewhat thanks to the Charlottesville problems,” Bowling told the Richmond Times-Dispatch yesterday. “I’m not saying we’ll call it off. I kind of have to watch and see what goes on. I don’t want to see David Duke at this rally. I don’t want to see Antifa. I don’t want to see Black Lives Matter. I don’t want them there.”

Update: The T-D reports this morning that Bowling has withdrawn his permit request: “I do not want to be part of an event where people are hurt or killed. Our purpose is to save monuments, not be engaged in social and racial issues.”

Congratulations, white nationalists, the violence you brought to Virginia has effectively suppressed the right of monument-heritage supporters to assemble and be heard. Good job, *&#$-heads.

As I wrote yesterday, it takes two to tango. Among the mostly non-violent protesters there was a confrontation-seeking minority — generically referred to as Antifa (for antifascist) — that contributed to the mayhem. But Antifa didn’t murder anyone — a neo-Nazi did. And the only reason the Antifa radicals came to Charlottesville was because you white nationalists came to Charlottesville.

So, as a Virginia citizen, I repeat my call to all white nationalists, if you haven’t left already, go home. And don’t ever come back. And take your vile, foreign ideologies with you. You are alien bodies. You are HIV, ebola, and bubonic plague bacillus rolled into one. Nobody here shares your way of thinking. (OK, maybe one or two tenths of a percent do, but that’s almost nobody). We’re trying to build a civil society here. All you do is stir up ugly passions, legitimize the Left, strengthen the forces of political correctness, and leave death and destruction in your wake.

It Takes Two to Tango

The discourse over Saturday’s events in Charlottesville has evolved so rapidly that it is hard to keep up. If there’s one thing that most of us can agree upon, it’s that the mayhem and murder may have taken place in Virginia, but it does not define Virginia. Heather Heyer, victim of the car attack, was a Virginian. But the advocates and violence and the man who (allegedly) struck her down, came from Ohio. We Virginians may disagree about the merits of placing statues of Civil War generals in public spaces, but we are not Klansmen, Nazis, white supremacists or murderers.

To the contrary, as my friend Jon Wight observed on his Economics and Ethics blog, while out-of-state protesters and counter-protesters were bashing heads in Charlottesville, “thousands of people of all races gathered 70 miles away to celebrate ideas that unite us—the sounds of blues, jazz, and everything in-between at the Richmond Jazz Festival. The races of humanity mingled, laughed, shared food and fans, danced, and enjoyed each other’s company.”

It has been remarkable to see how the incident in Charlottesville has been hijacked by the national media to serve national political agendas and to observe how the battle has begun to frame the meaning of the violence. The national media seems particularly fixated on President Trump’s reluctance to denounce white supremacist groups by name in his formal remarks condemning “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” But even before Trump made his scripted and oddly detached comments, media pundits had been depicting the violence as exclusively the handiwork of the radical right — even as videos flashed on our TV screens showing confrontation between the far Right and the far Left.

Insofar as the most devastating crime that occurred yesterday can be attributed James Alex Fields, Jr., a white supremacist from Ohio, and insofar as participants in the rally came armed with shields and batons in expectation of conflict, the white nationalist movement deserves the lion’s share of odium for recent events. But that expectation of violence did not occur in a vacuum. It takes two to tango, folks. And it takes two to whack each other with sticks and clubs. The white nationalists we saw on those videos were not wailing away at phantoms.

I bring this up not because it is the most significant part of the story but because it is the most neglected part of the story and the most likely to be white-washed by the national media.

Here’s the truth: Both the far Right and far Left came to Charlottesville spoiling for a fight. Virginia authorities had plenty of advance notice. As Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a press release issued the day before the rally took place:

In advance of tomorrow’s rally there have been communications from extremist groups, many of which are located outside of Virginia, who may seek to commit acts of violence against rally participants or law enforcement officials. In the event that such violent or unlawful conduct occurs, I have instructed state public safety officials to act quickly and decisively in order to keep the public and themselves safe.

One can argue how effectively the Charlottesville police and State Police handled the events. Right-wing rally participants have already begun blaming them for letting the violence running out of control. But plenty of evidence suggests that both sides came ready to rumble. As Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Ned Oliver reported:

Attendees ranged from clean-cut young men in pressed white shirts to heavily armed militia members in body armor and camouflage. Others were outfitted more crudely, but nonetheless ready for battle, carrying homemade shields, sticks, and wearing all manner of helmets and face masks. Many attendees embraced Nazi imagery and chanted racist slogans. …

At least as many counter protesters, some also militarized and clearly prepared to fight, surrounded the square. By 10:30 a.m., extremely violent skirmishes broke out between the two groups.

Both groups repeatedly fired pepper spray and other chemical weapons at each other. At one point, the rally attendees launched at least four tear gas canisters on the counterprotesters, scattering them in search of medical attention. Sticks and batons also figured prominently in the clashes, which would flare up in a wild melee and then quickly die down as both sides retreated to regroup.

The reporting I’ve seen suggests that most (though not all) of the white nationalists came from outside Virginia. I have not seen a comparable level of journalistic curiosity about the identity of the counter-demonstrators, although perhaps someone will fill in those details. Based on my superficial impressions, the counter-demonstrators appear to have been a mixed bag. Most were Virginians — a friend of my son’s, who was hit by Field’s car, had come from Fairfax County — and their intention was to protest peacefully against racism. But I have questions about those who came to confront the white nationalists. Were they locals, or were they part of the so-called Antifa movement from outside Virginia looking for confrontation?

Some readers of Bacon’s Rebellion seem to think that violence emanates exclusively from the right side of the political spectrum. Yet the man who shot the Republican congressmen in Alexandria was a Bernie Bro. The murderers of police in Dallas and New York were agitated by Black Lives Matter rhetoric. Radicals have used violence to shut down conservative speakers on multiple campuses. The sad reality is that both the far Left and far Right are prone to violence. Further, the interests of both groups are served by confrontations like the one that occurred in Charlottesville. Both sides seek to polarize public opinion, and both benefit when violence and raw emotion encourage people to seek refuge in tribal (racial, ethnic, religious or class) identities.

It is the responsibility of those who don’t want the United States to descend into downward spiral of anarchy to push back. And that requires an honest appraisal of the dynamics driving the violence. Not surprisingly, I have seen no such honest appraisal in the mainstream media. (I do not purport to have conducted an exhaustive analysis, so my impressions must be regarded as anecdotal.)

Judging by the response to my previous post, I expect to be accused of drawing moral equivalence between the far Left and the far Right, so I want to make a few points crystal clear. Nazism is a loathsome ideology. KKK racism is abomination. The volatile mix of these strains of evil on display with the so-called white nationalists who demonstrated in Charlottesville yesterday is an affront t0 core American values and to the conservative/libertarian principles that I espouse.

But I’m not blind. What happened Saturday is part of a larger struggle between far Left and far Right. I expect the events in Charlottesville to further inflame both sides and to inspire even more violence. This time, the rightists committed the most heinous crime. Next time, it will be the leftists. People of moderation and good will serve no useful purpose by denying the reality that threatens to consume us all.

Update: Excellent piece by Robert Tracinski, a conservative, Charlottesville-based writer, who makes many of the same points I do. Hat tip: Reed Fawell.

Update: I took down a picture of Heather Heyer, victim of the terrorist-style attack by a white nationalist in Charlottesville, and replaced it with a photo depicting the melee between white nationalists and counter protesters. The photo in combination — “It Takes Two to Tango” — with the headline was potentially misleading. The photo of the physical altercation better illustrates the thrust of the post.

Hey, White Nationalists, Go Away

White nationalists marching in Charlottesville. Image credit: Washington Post

Hey, white nationalists, go away. We don’t want you. Nobody wants you. I, too, am a white person, and I, too, am appalled by the identity politics of the Left. But the answer is not to match La Raza and Black Lives Matter with an identity politics of right-wing whiteness. You and your torch-light marches only fuel the Left’s narrative that America is an irredeemably racist nation. The opposite of left-wing tribalism isn’t right-wing tribalism, it’s individualism. If you want to stand up to Leftist identity politics, work to build a society that provides equal treatment under the law to all and empowers Americans to rely upon their own initiative, not the government, to better their condition.

Update: I made this post this morning before the violence took place. I share the sentiments of Governor Terry McAuliffe who said this afternoon that there is no place in Virginia — or the United States — for the kind of violence we saw this afternoon or the hateful sentiments that motivated it. The perpetrators of violence need to be prosecuted with the full power of the law.

I also support the statement of the House Republican leadership:

The rhetoric and actions of racists, white supremacists, and Nazi-ideologues in Charlottesville last night and today are disgusting and vile. We are heartbroken that innocent life was taken in what appears to be a violent act of terrorism. This is not what Virginia believes in or stands for and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. We are grateful for the bravery and professionalism of local law enforcement, the Virginia State Police, and the Virginia National Guard. They are heroic public servants.”