Charlottesville, Aug. 12, 2017 / Durham, Aug. 14, 2017: the Battle of the U.S. South Against White Supremacy

Published

Taryn Fivek and Loan Tran join forces to write this often gut-wrenching two-fold essay dealing with the counter-protests of Charlottesville white supremacist deadly rally, as well as the toppling of a confederate statue two days later in Durham.

Article published in The Funambulist 28 (March-April 2020) Our Battles. All drawings by Roanne Moodley. Click here to access the rest of the issue. 

TARYN: Doing battle in the United States’ South presupposes a special kind of defensive planning. In the South, the cops are manifestations of the racist history of Jim Crow and slave-catchers. Even if they are personally sympathetic with one’s message, they are drenched in the history of thousands of vindictive lynchings. The cops will beat you or shoot you, sure, but worse is when they step back with a glint in their eye and let the mob, which they allow with impunity to assemble and rage, to lay their hands on you. This is a lesson that every person fighting for justice in the streets of the South learns early on. This is why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategy of strategic non-violence was key for success while doing battle in the South. With the public outrage of watching little girls be spit on or pregnant mothers mauled by dogs, the righteous anti-racist fighters in the South could win a battle against state racism.

In the North, people do things differently. After all, the balance of forces there are different. Did those from the North know how things would go down in Charlottesville? As a person born and raised in the South and now living in New York, I can tell you that this was not the case. Driving down I saw them, faces pressed against the car windows, looking in horror at the dealership-sized confederate battle flags lashing out over I-95. One person in our contingent shows up with a fever. I am furious because I feel like none of the out-of-towners are taking this as seriously as they should. They do not know the history of the 1979 Greensboro massacre. They did not grow up hearing about racist pogroms and lynchings. They were never caught on a back road with a cop who drove too close to your bumper. To do battle in this part of the country means that you must be left standing at the end of a long day of abuse, and this necessitates planning a good defense.

The first effort at defensive planning requires a banner, which comrades spent all afternoon painting two days before in New York. It is white with black and red paint. It reads: “Make Racists Afraid Again – Smash White Supremacy!” There is a graphic of a fist smashing a swastika. The banner will stand at the front, demarcating our contingent which has traveled from four separate states to be there under the leadership of Durham-based comrades who had been working there in the last few months. The banner will be our rallying point and shield. When there is madness in the streets, having a banner or flag to lock eyes on is a comfort when all else is uncertain. We are all traveling there to exercise our First Amendment right to protest. We are going up against hundreds of white supremacist militants who take issue with a local movement to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee, a slave-owning general who led the confederate army to preserve the grotesque institution of keeping Black people in chains.