“Farther down Central Avenue, Thomas saw a white middle-aged man who was slightly built with deep-set dark eyes. He wore a black suit, white dress shirt and thin black tie. His face was expressionless, his demeanor stiff and disconcerting. He held a Confederate flag about a foot long at the end of a wooden dowel, and waved it in a figure eight motion, up and down, back and forth, hypnotized by his rhythm. No doubt he meant to be an affront to the cause. The Confederate flag, even as it flew over the Alabama State Capitol, sent a clear message of oppression and slavery to southern Negroes. Thomas turned to Evie.
“I guess the right to peaceful assembly flows in both directions,” he said.
On the other side of the road Thomas saw a Buick that looked like it could be a float in the Thanksgiving Day Racist Parade. Fastened to the roof was a three-foot cross, flanked on one side by an American Flag and on the other by a larger Confederate flag. Through a loudspeaker bolted to the front hood, the driver, a 20-year-old white separatist yelled at the marchers.
“Go back to Africa.” “Don’t start a fight you can’t finish.” “Segregated we stand, integrated we fall.”
The prior three paragraphs are not a media dispatch from Charlottesville. They are part of my soon-to-be published novel, Black Hearts White Minds, (Mission Possible Press) set in the mythical town of Stockville, Alabama in 1964. When I wrote the book, I certainly hoped it would be relevant to today. I had no idea that the perfect storm of a backlash against the election of America’s first Black president, a Democratic female candidate, and a rudderless Republican Party, would usher in Donald Trump, who would then embolden the Ku Klux Klan, repackaged with a new moniker of the Alt-Right, to emerge from under the rock where it belongs. But here we are…Charlottesville.
I would expect the Klan to take an active and violent role in American politics in the months to come. Even with politicians from both sides of the aisle denouncing the white supremacy movement and the domestic terrorism that led to the death of an innocent American woman, and injuries to scores of others, we have the man at the top, President Donald J. Trump, giving the Klan a nod and a wink to keep up the good work, even with his forced and phony, too little too late, condemnation of them. Why should we be surprised? Trump is their boy. He garnered 100 percent of their vote and its payback time. Trump has Alt-Right darlings Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller sitting at his knee, guiding his racist, anti-Semitic agenda: “Make White America Great Again.”
Are we back to 1964? Clearly not. We don’t have Jim Crow laws validating racism and the oppression of African Americans. We don’t have poll taxes keeping Blacks from voting. We don’t have the KKK openly operating in conjunction with the government.
But here’s what we do have. We have President Trump announcing that the Justice Department will be suing universities for discriminating against white applicants. We have Trump’s self-aggrandizing and bogus Election Integrity Commission trying to suppress minority voting. And yes, with Charlottesville, we now have the KKK, albeit with a nod and a wink, openly operating with the support of the President of the United States.
We’re not back in 1964, but we are on a slippery slope.