What if President Donald Trump does come out in the next few days and specifically names white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist groups as detestable and un-American? Will that make them less active, less viable to impressionable white males with twisted perspectives on culture closing in on them?
Probably not. But it would make millions of Americans feel that Donald Trump's immovable stance on wink-and-nod alignment with white nationalists would be shifting in the aftermath of violence and terror in Charlottesville this weekend. It's convenient for us to seek that from the president, or anyone who doesn't condemn white racism in its vilest forms.
Or we could demand the president, and every other politician criticizing Trump's slow and incomplete statements on Charlottesville, to call for new dedication to equalizing opportunities for all Americans. Racial minorities are more than the driving force behind a perceived wave of political correctness, liberal bias in media, and fading industry – in fact, our success is the dream of the white nationalist.
Because the less visible African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and other underrepresented groups are in low-skill jobs, highly-selective spots in college admissions and affluent white communities, the safer most ultra-conservative white guys are made to feel. If we are more successful and a dwindling element of national stats on criminal justice disparities, financial and educational inequity, and political marginalization, the greater America looks and feels to the average angry white man.
Unfortunately, the government is not in the business of funding black folks’ overt success for the racial comfort of angry white guys. But it can be in the business of bolstering opportunities in areas of the country where minorities and poor white citizens can earn similar chances to find social mobility.
Charlottesville was an easy target for white supremacists because for decades, it allowed not-so-subtle reminders of white supremacy to linger in the city, like a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. And when the times dictated that the statue and the mentality associated with it had run its course after 93 years, the result was an eruption of white nationalist frustration in one of America’s elite suburbs.
A city powered by one of the nation’s flagship colleges for elite white social promotion – now a target for white rage. How ironic.
What if cities like Petersburg and Norfolk, VA., long-primed for economic development but largely neglected by the state legislature in support of their anchor institutions, had just half of the resources and brand appeal of the University of Virginia? What if their universities, Virginia State and Norfolk State, boasted more than 10,000 students and produced research to help underserved communities? With the right kind of investment from the Commonwealth and from Capitol Hill, many of yesterday’s white nationalist protestors may not have existed – because all of the opportunities of which they today feel deprived would have been provided by schools without the racial stereotype threat and underdeveloped programs which have historically and unfairly burdened HBCUs for generations.
If it seems like a stretch, consider the federal lawsuit from HBCU alumni in Maryland against the state, which alleges that program duplication of HBCU degrees at predominantly white schools dramatically reduced the number of white students who attended and graduated from these schools. Or look to West Virginia, where the state’s two public historically black colleges are today overwhelmingly comprised of white students and faculty members.
HBCUs can provide opportunities to all, even those for whom they were not created but can serve with credentials and job training in a variety of fields – along with valuable lessons on racial tolerance. Recognizing HBCUs as valuable resources is the first, and perhaps best way to generate understanding between races – not just decrying the overt, violent manifestations of racial strife.
Elected officials have been rushing to use buzzwords like “white supremacists” and “domestic terrorism” in response to President Trump’s grossly inadequate response to Charlottesville, but if they mean it, they’ll take the extra step in promoting the American dream for all citizens; not just denouncing attacks waged by the angriest our country has to offer.