The impact of white supremacy

SHS+seniors+Salsabil+Rekhif+and+David+Kalk
SHS seniors Salsabil Rekhif and David Kalk

SHS seniors Salsabil Rekhif and David Kalk

Madison McGirr

Madison McGirr

SHS seniors Salsabil Rekhif and David Kalk

Madison McGirr, Web Editor

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Through the night of Friday, Aug. 11, white nationalists swarmed University of Virginia’s campus in Charlottesville  bearing torches, chanting “blood and soil” (a Nazi slogan), “white lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us.” The next day, a “Unite the Right” rally, organized by self-proclaimed  political journalist Jason Kessler, took place to protest the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters arrived at the site of the rally and violence broke out shortly thereafter. A local state of emergency was declared by the city of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle by Michael Signer, the mayor of Charlottesville. One woman and two state troopers died and over 30 were injured. An ABC News article cites that the  Southern Poverty Law Center, an American nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights, found that there were 99 neo-Nazi groups, 130 outposts of the Ku Klux Klan, 43 neo-Confederate groups, 78 racist groups and 100 white nationalist groups at the rally.

The violent rally that took place in Charlottesville is being described as one of the largest demonstrations by white supremacists  in recent American history. More and more, these controversial opinions have gained enough support to move to the forefront of our nation’s political focus and have garnered endless media attention. White supremacists ideology is not something new, but it has become more prevalent after the 2016 presidential election regarding President Trump’s following. The values expressed in this “alt-right” movement  can also affect those at a local level, like students at Solon High School.

SHS senior Julia Tomlinson believes memorializing Confederate soldiers, like Robert E. Lee, only continues racism in the United States. She believes the statute should not be in public since the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate.

“The Confederate flag represents an oppressive time period where slavery was acceptable and encouraged,” Tomlinson said. “It does not represent modern southern values and beliefs, as many of the people who don’t see a problem with [the flag] believe.”

However, SHS seniors David Kalk and Samuel Brady believe Confederate statues hold some historical significance. Instead of removing the figures, they both believe in preserving them in a museum. They also said they believe that the Confederate flag stood for something bigger than slavery.

“I think that in the time of the Civil War, [the flag] meant something totally different than what people think it means today,” Kalk said. “ I don’t believe the flag directly represents racism, but at the same time we are the United States, we beat the Confederacy in the Civil War, we don’t stand for what the Confederacy stands for.”

SHS senior Salsabil Rekhif holds a similar sentiment to Tomlinson, as she believes the flag stands for hate rather than southern heritage.

[Confederates] didn’t stand for democracy, they stood to hate people, they stood to treat people differently because [of] the color of their skin,” Rekhif said. “That’s not fair or morally correct at all. Yes, it is the history of the South, but it is also the history of slavery. They shouldn’t be idolized.”

Brady and Kalk also said that they feel that any type of hate speech is disturbing, even though it is protected under the law.

“I feel a mix of anger and almost laughability that [white supremacists] are going to desperate lengths to try and remain relevant and remain in the spotlight for attention,” Brady said. “I honestly don’t agree with what they said, I think they’re idiots and radicals. They’re trying to gain notoriety by copying the Nuremberg Rally in 1936 when Nazis carried torches, but I think if that we’re more vigilant and ignore them, they’ll be less effective.”

Brady and Kalk agree that media coverage on racist groups can only bring them more attention. The events in Charlottesville personally impacted Kalk because of his religion.

“I am definitely angry whenever I hear any type of hate speech,” Kalk said. “Especially being Jewish, I hate to see neo-Nazis talking about how bad Jews are still, even in 2017. All speech that is hateful speech, while legal, is still disgusting.”

Rekhif also shares a similar disdain towards this rhetoric, since she feels that her religion has been scrutinized by the media and hate groups over the past couple of years.

“I mean imagining somebody attacking Jewish people, just like how people attack me for being Muslim, is disgusting.” Rekhif said. “They want to make somebody feel inferior. In this country there’s already white privilege, so when [neo-Nazis] say something like ‘white lives matter’ and ‘Jewish people can’t replace us’, it just gives me a rush of anger. I hate it.”

Tomlinson, an African American woman, has also faced discrimination, similar to Kalk and Rekhif, based on her race. She believes white supremacists seem nonexistent in Solon, but also believes there is racism present in other high schools.

“There’s gonna be racist people in every high school, but I feel like Solon is so diverse it’s not as intense or visible as it would be in some inner city school,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a very accepting place and it never feels like I’m being rewarded or held back for being black here. Everyone is treated equally by the school to my knowledge, so I don’t really have any complaints.”

Kalk said he feels like Solon is very accepting of diversity compared to other schools as well. He believes media can influence student views on extremism and how important the truth is in situations like Charlottesville.

“I think what we saw in Charlottesville, as well as Antifa‘s response at Berkley, show a small group of extremists on either side,” Kalk said. “Our country is not filled with alt-right or alt-left terrorists. We need to avoid grouping the actions of a few lunatics with the ideology of millions of law abiding citizens on both sides. The ‘racist America’ narrative is dividing us more and more and the mainstream media likes it because a ‘race war’ makes them more money, even if they have to oversell it and make up facts.”

While all of these students agree that the events in Charlottesville were horrific, all of them also believe in the right to free speech, even hate speech. Tomlinson believes education on the Civil War can prevent hate speech in the future. She also thinks that knowledge on slavery can sway people away from supporting the Confederacy and show that the Union fought to protect slaveholders.

Slavery in North America spanned over a 200 year period,” Tomlinson said. “That’s over 200 years worth of oppression, humiliation, and separation of black families. Over 200 years worth of beatings, lynchings, whippings, and so many more atrocities against blacks. It was such an ugly time period and that Confederacy represents those who wanted to keep things the way they were. Those who claim ‘it’s heritage not hate’ don’t understand the heritage is founded on and rooted in hate.”

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