The Alt-Right Embraces Charlottesville’s Lee Monument

Yesterday a group of protesters gathered in my old home of Charlottesvile, Virginia to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument. The group was led by Richard Spencer, who popularized the term, “alt-right.”

Last night Spencer led a relatively small group in a torchlight ceremony that reminded many people of similar ceremonies held by the Nazi party in the the 1930s.

The city was quick to condemn the group as were two organizations that have organized to protest the removal of Lee and other Confederate monuments in the city. A statement released by The Monument Fund included the following:

Neither Save the Robert E. Lee Statue nor The Monument Fund were in any way involved in these events and only learned of them though media reports. We remain committed to preserving the Robert E. Lee Monument in its park through the legal process in the courts because of its historic and artistic value. We soundly and completely reject racism, white supremacy, and any other identity based groups that preach division and hate no matter which side of the issue they happen to support.

The statement is certainly welcome, but what the members of these organizations need to remember is that regardless of their good intentions, from a historical point-of-view there is nothing inappropriate or surprising about last night’s protest. The Monument Fund and other groups have no more legitimacy in the meaning they attach to these sites than Spencer’s crowd.

In fact, the meaning that Spencer and his crowd attach to the Lee monument and other Confederate sites throughout the city fit neatly into their collective history.

It is no accident that a group of white supremacists decided to rally around Lee. Lee devoted roughly four years of his life to waging war in the name of a nation that hoped to establish a slaveholding nation built on white supremacy. Charlottesville’s Confederate monuments were dedicated at the height of the Jim Crow era. The monuments, including a Confederate soldier in front of its courthouse reinforced for decades a message of racial exclusion and second-class citizenship for African Americans.

Every gathering by white supremacists around Confederate monuments strengthens this historical thread and reminds us that the fight for racial justice is ongoing.

This post is not intended as an argument to remove or preserve these monuments. That is up to the people of Charlottesville and the residents of other communities across the country.

What I do hope to remind organizations like Save the Robert E. Lee Statue is that the people that gathered last night around Richard Spencer in Charlottesville’s Lee Park are right where they belong.

There is no reason to be surprised when white supremacists gather at monuments that celebrate the cause of white supremacy.

23 comments… add one
  • DTC May 21, 2017 @ 7:49

    What strikes me most is the photo of torches burning in the night. All that’s missing are the robes and hoods.

    • bob carey May 22, 2017 @ 13:57

      Was there a pyre for book burning, or did I miss it ?

  • bob carey May 16, 2017 @ 23:53

    As stated here and on other blogs the fate of the monuments should be in the hands of the locals. Unfortunately when a locality decides to remove one an opportunity arises for people like Spencer to voice their opinion, this is the price our society pays for the 1st Amendment, allowing Spencer and his little band of storm troopers to demonstrate is their right. I think the more Spencer is allowed to spread his message the less effective it becomes. The alt-right has reached its zenith and its’ influence will decline rapidly.

    • Joshism May 20, 2017 @ 15:38

      “The alt-right has reached its zenith and its’ influence will decline rapidly.”

      You’re alot more optimistic about that than I am.

      • bob carey May 22, 2017 @ 13:54

        My confidence is rooted in the fact that the President has no real ideology, he will endorse any idea which brings him the greatest applause. The “alt right” thinks that Trump is their leader, but he has nothing in common with them. He is quickly abandoning his more outlandish positions of his campaign and he will continue to do so. He is nothing more than a con man and the “alt right” has bought his scam. He will throw them under the bus and deal with the people he is most comfortable with, the rich 5th Avenue crowd of NYC.

  • Eric A. Jacobson May 16, 2017 @ 16:40

    The similarities between the audio from the event and recordings of the Rebel yell from the 1920s and 1930s are, well, eerie to say the least.

  • K J Alnwick May 16, 2017 @ 10:08

    As a long-time Virginian and Charlottesville resident, now in the Pacific NW, these events really hit home. I’ve walked through Lee Park countless times and it never occurred to me how the placement of the statue next to the Courthouse was an overt act of intimidation. It should be taken down. This is a far cry from saving a battlefield where those on both sides of the war fought and died, or sites recording the everyday atrocity of slavery. It crosses the line from preservation and commemoration to propaganda.

    As for the latter, I feel we need these places to remember and reflect. Virginia is indeed beautiful, a place of great significance to the world, but there is a sorrow sunk deep into the soil that should never be ignored or erased form our collective memory.

  • d101786 May 15, 2017 @ 5:47

    I got into a fight with my brother-in-law over the removal of the monuments yesterday and it got rather heated. I told him unless he could use facts to justify his opinion, all he was doing was expressing his beliefs with nothing to justify them. He retorted that facts don’t matter.

    Game, set, and match.

    • Joshism May 20, 2017 @ 15:36

      “He retorted that facts don’t matter.”

      Anyone who thinks facts don’t matter demonstrates that they themselves do not matter.

  • Debbie Adenan May 15, 2017 @ 4:43

    I love the way that the monument defense group says that they don’t support racial hatred “no matter what side it’s on” – as if white racial hatred had ever been on more than one side.

    • Joshism May 20, 2017 @ 15:35

      Their statement addresses white supremacy specifically, but also racial discrimination and division in general. Racial hatred isn’t exclusively white.

  • woodrowfan May 14, 2017 @ 10:45
    • Msb May 14, 2017 @ 12:55

      Sort of like they really want us to know exactly who they are. Thanks, fellas (and women).

      • Andy Hall May 15, 2017 @ 16:06

        I feel exactly the same way about the League of the South. There’s not much I admire about Michael Hill, but I can at least appreciate his candor.

    • Andy Hall May 15, 2017 @ 7:55

      According to the local paper, they were also chanting, “blood and soil!”

      Right now, Leni Riefenstahl is kicking herself that she doesn’t have a YouTube account. That, and looking for some icewater.

  • Forester May 14, 2017 @ 7:36

    Well, there goes any chance of saving the monument. If Dick Spencer is involved, I’m pulling out and disavowing anything he’s connected to, sight unseen.

    The guy’s a maniac, plain and simple.

  • B Wetherington May 14, 2017 @ 5:01

    Racial justice: creating a society where people don’t have to ask for a definition of the phrase; where people do not question the validity of the term in describing both past and current issues in American society.

    • Kevin Levin May 14, 2017 @ 5:03

      I can work with that. 🙂

    • Ted McKnight May 15, 2017 @ 7:13

      Thank you. Another clarification: Where/when does discernment end and discrimination begin?

      • Msb May 15, 2017 @ 13:01

        Where: right after the c? (Sorry.)
        If one is talking about, say, art, they might be synonyms. If one is talking about “discernment between” and “discrimination against” I would say that they are opposites. One discerns real, sometimes subtle differences or similarities between individuals, for example, while discrimination handicaps all members of a group, regardless of individual differences or characteristics. One might discern that woman A has a greater interest in politics than woman B, but discrimination ensured that all American women were prevented from voting at the federal level until 1920.
        But this is just the result of my using both words; i haven’t checked a dictionary.

  • Ted McKnight May 14, 2017 @ 4:20

    Could you define/explain the term racial justice? TIA

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