Charlottesville has unearthed a side of America many of us tried to forget existed, but it's time we face the ugly truth.
The name of the town alone sounds so welcoming, or at least, it used to. It's a Southern city that has now been tainted by alt right, neo-Nazis, and other vile groups that want nothing more than to see the freedom, equality, and unity America had worked so hard to see disappear dissolve into hate and turmoil.
One woman died, dozens were injured. Neighbors were turned against neighbors. Polite exchanges were dropped in favor of hate symbols, racial slurs, beatings, and more. It was ugly, and it's only getting uglier as the full extent of the damage unfurls.
The riot that unfurled did many things to many people. Among those who did not want to believe racism was still alive in America, it forced them to realize the truth. Among those who chose to march against Nazis, it showed them that they had support — and that the choice to stand for what's right comes with a potentially lethal price.
On a political level, Trump's slow reaction proved to many of us that we have a fascist and a Neo-Nazi in power. It also proved that many people are seemingly okay with it and that even more went so far as to start striking against Holocaust museums and memorials.
On an international level, Charlottesville proved to the world that we have a serious, hideous, and ugly problem we have to face. We can no longer be seen as the shiny, heroic, World War II winners that we portrayed ourselves to be for so many years.
In a few words, Charlottesville has proven how far America has fallen.
10 years ago, I never would have believed that marches like this would have happened in New York City.
This photo, taken by my friend, was shot at an anti-racism march to Trump Tower. This makes me both upset and happy at the same time. I am happy and relieved that I see people who are willing to stand up against racism and hate.
I won't lie, though, I am absolutely ashamed that demonstrations like this have to happen because of the political climate. It's so hard to see people who have to march against racism, knowing that the people who are marching are probably going to go home — right next to neighbors who would condemn those very views.
What's terrifying about all this is that it's so hard to tell who believes in the alt right's poison and who doesn't. It feels like you can't even trust your own neighbors to do the right thing anymore, and that tension is creating a huge rift in our country.
I thought, perhaps wrongly, that we would have learned the lesson against hate after seeing what happened during World War II. It's 2017, and here we are, making history repeat itself.
What hurts the most, though, is that 10 years ago, we were a united country.
I remember that I used to feel totally comfortable talking to people of every political ideology in college. Those times are gone — for myself, and for many others.
I no longer feel comfortable around very conservative-looking people because I'm worried they might harbor hate for me because I'm trans, childfree, and in an interracial relationship. I know for a fact that people are afraid to approach many of my friends based on appearances as well.
It was not this way before! I used to assume my fellow countrymen were capable of empathy, of tolerance, and of understanding. Nowadays, I'm not sure who to trust — so anyone who doesn't have a clear liberal lean won't get the time of day from me.
I know I'm not alone in this. I'm seeing the divide everywhere I go, and it's very clear that people are beginning to flaunt their political leanings with every little lifestyle choice they make.
I see Prius drivers glaring at Truck drivers. I see the way EDM fans get glared at by country fans. I see people who wear red hats getting glared at by people with black bandanas. It's everywhere, and it's scaring me.
We need to confront the problem that this country has, and racism is only one of the issues at the base of this matter.
Charlottesville was more than just a very clear sign that we have a racial tension issue. It was an indicator that we have a very serious problem with the people in power, and it's a sign that we don't want to actually say how bad the problem is.
We have people in power who got into power by playing off fears, recruiting white people who suffered from aggrieved entitlement and are using that power to hurt others. They are doing so under the guise of "freedom of speech," and they are abusing the very powers veterans died to protect during WWII to create a fascist regime of their own.
More shockingly, they are using the power and propaganda they created to seize more power and more wealth — and their followers are letting them do this! In fact, they are gleefully helping them gain power, even if it means using violence to do so.
Meanwhile, those of us who mean well are silent. Why we're silent, I don't know. Perhaps because it's hard to confront something as uncomfortable as this.
The denial of the guilty parties is deep-rooted.
Much of the beginnings of this schism started from the right and was carefully orchestrated to build up over years. Steve Bannon and his cronies made a point to recruit from online forums filled with men who felt like outcasts for this particular reason.
What makes this truly atrocious is that the people who are spewing the incendiary hatred are refusing to call themselves what they are. If you are marching alongside KKK members and Nazi flag wavers, guess what — you're racist. If you call yourself an "identitarian," you are still racist; you're just labeling it differently.
If you are waving a flag of countries that fought against America, including the Nazi Germany flag and the Confederate flag, you cannot call yourself a patriot. You are a traitor to your own people!
Forcing people to own up to their mistakes is crucial in making sure that this hatred stops. But, that's only half of the battle that we would have to fight. In order to stop this from continuing, we have to de-radicalize these individuals and get them mental help.
After all, they've been brainwashed.
America can no longer turn the other cheek, or look away.
We can no longer sit and try to hide the ugly truth under the rug. The pristine mask of tolerance and equality has been ripped off our country's face, and the true, hideous underbelly of our nation has been exposed for all to see.
It is time to act, and it is time that we begin to realize that we are at a breaking point.
We have to drive home the point that there is no "white nation" in America. There is only a nation by the people, for the people, and of the people — and they are people of all colors, ages, genders, and sexualities.
America is a melting pot, and it always has been. The Statue of Liberty begged the world to bring her the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The world listened, in hope they could get a slice of the American dream. They came, regardless of nationality, to America to find a better life.
That is the America I love. It's the America our parents loved, and the America that every single white family currently living in here celebrated. It's the America that every family, regardless of race, came here for.
Right now, white nationalism can kill that America — if it's not stopped in time. Now is the time to act, and now is the time to speak up. It's time to get real, before the real America is lost.