Charlottesville gained national attention when the white supremacy rally took place on Aug. 12. After Charlottesville, the reporting has died down on these rallies. However, these rallies have continued and are continuing. On Sept. 30, a rally is coming close to Milligan, the location only being disclosed as “an hour outside of Knoxville.”
The rally is being planned by Stormfront, which is an online group of over 330,000 people. It is not being advertised as a private event, but members are screened before being admitted to a private post on the Stormfront website that has the actual location of the event. There are currently about 700 posts, and it is not clear if that means there are 700 members signed up to go or if that simply means there are 700 posts.
Race is a touchy subject, especially after such horrific incidents like Charlottesville. Milligan is a campus that works on being as diverse as possible through initiatives such as the Betty Goah Scholarship. The scholarship is described on Milligan’s website as a program that
“recognizes full-time undergraduate students who enhance the educational experience of all students by sharing their diverse cultural experiences.”
The Stampede wanted to know the views of some of these students, as well as other multi-cultural students, so we sat down and asked sophomores Caelyn Thompson, Rebeka Urges and Goah scholar Jenee Boston about their thoughts and views on these events and how their lives have been affected.
When asked what she thought about members of the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi’s and white supremacists calling themselves Christians, Thompson, an African American, said, “It kinda confuses me, because I don’t understand how they can say that they’re Christian but they can act a certain way (that is, not like Christ).
Urges, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, replied, “It’s crazy because Ethiopians (formed) the first Christian nation, and you don’t see (hatred and violence) in our country.”
On the topic of how the KKK or groups like Stormfront’s agendas fit into what God wants for the Kingdom, Thompson said, “I don’t think (their agenda) fits in, because they’re discriminating against pretty much anyone that’s not like them, and that’s not at all what God outlined.”
Urges also explained that she believes white supremacists are full of anger, so it would be difficult for them to empathize with a young, black woman.
Boston added, “I don’t think they’re trying, otherwise there wouldn’t be rallies and whatnot.”
On the other hand, we asked whether they had ever been able to see where white supremacist groups are coming from. While Thompson said she could not, Boston and Urges said that sometimes they could.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, actually, who have that mentality,” Urges said. “And, honestly, it’s like they don’t even know what they’re saying.”
Boston had a more moderate view: “The only way I could ever see where they’re coming from is how they’re raised, like, if your parents are racist, you’re going to be racist, because that’s how you’re taught. I personally don’t understand.”
Along with the topic of culture, the Confederate flag has brought controversy, especially within the context of the south. Whether it’s used to provoke others or used to promote an old culture, all three interviewees agreed that it is a sign that hurts others.
“I see it both as a piece of southern culture and past,” Boston said, “but I aso think that when it’s used most of the time it’s ignorant. I don’t understand why you would use something if you knew it was going to hurt other people.”
Urges said that, just like the Nazi symbol has been tainted from its original meaning of peace to one of destruction, the Confederate flag now also has a negative connotation, one of racial discrimination.
“(The Nazi symbol) was originally an African symbol meaning something completely different than it does today. It meant peace. And now you won’t see that anywhere in Africa. It means something to destroy. We don’t hate the symbol. We get it. But it’s used in so many hateful ways. But if we’re not using (the Nazi symbol) anymore, then why are Americans using the Confederate flag?”
The final question proposed was, “If you could say anything to the people going to the rally, what would you say?”
“That’s hard,” Urges said, “because racism is a sickness, and if you’re not going to acknowledge that you’re sick, there’s only so much you can do. Unless someone is really willing to be cured, I don’t think you can say anything.”
Boston and Thompson both said that communication is key with issues like this.
“Be kind,” Boston replied. “Kindness goes a long way. Just try to understand other people, where they’re coming from, and a lot could be avoided.”
Thompson said, “I think I would really just want to have a conversation about the thought process, and where they’re coming from, where I’m coming from, meet in the middle, avoid some conflict.”