we need to talk about vice news’ white nationalist documentary
As the U.S. continues to reel from a white nationalist rally earlier this month that left one person dead and more than a dozen injured, a recent documentary is giving an uncensored look into the hatred and violence unleashed that day.
A 20-minute documentary from Vice News Tonight, called Charlottesville: Race and Terror, follows correspondent Elle Reeve as she goes behind the scenes with white nationalists and neo-Nazis at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through her reporting, she meets with counter protestors and activists, as well as some of America’s most well-known white nationalists, including David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, Christopher Cantwell and Robert Ray.
In little more than one week, the video has received more than 37 million views and 200,000 shares on Facebook. The full episode can be watched below. (Warning: video is graphic and contains strong language.)
While well aware of the rally in Charlottesville (between the media taking Trump to task for blaming “many sides” for the violence and Twitter users giving up-to-the-minute updates, there was no avoiding it) initially, I was hesitant to watch. Simply put, while it’s one thing to know about the horrors of racism, it’s an entirely different thing to actually watch it.
But after seeing the video shared on my Facebook News Feed for the fourth time, I decided to press “play.”
And I couldn’t look away.
From the beginning, the episode was difficult to watch. The opening scene of white men marching with torches and chanting racist and anti-Semitic chants were a terrifying reminder of a time period I read about in high school but quite frankly, never thought I’d witness.
While there have been numerous demonstrations and protests across the U.S. this year, none compared to the Unite the Right rally. On the day of, members of the alt-right arrived with weapons and shields, visibly ready to unleash violence on anyone who might get in their way.
To see that level of hatred was appalling, yet also spellbinding. No matter how uncomfortable or difficult it was to watch, to look away wasn’t an option. Everything that I saw was painfully raw and uncensored, offering a glimpse into a distorted mindset that I will likely never comprehend.
Racism has always been alive and well. From the alt-right to white supremacism to the KKK—these racist ideologies are nothing new. What is new is the pride and empowerment felt by today’s white nationalists. Gone are the days of “closet racism” and KKK members hidden behind white sheets. Today, supremacists wear “the most all-American clothes they can imagine,” donning the same polo shirts and khakis you’d find at your local American Eagle store.
Arguably, it’s a level of empowerment not seen since before the Civil Rights Movement.
Like many people, I believe President Trump is largely responsible for this sense of pride. His refusal to repudiate white nationalists’ strong support during his presidential campaign, coupled with his inability to condemn their violent actions in Charlottesville, have only managed to validate their hateful ideologies. The impact of this gross negligence has been felt across the country: Since his election to office last November, hate crimes in America have increased significantly. According to one report, last year hate crimes in nine metropolitan areas increased by more than 20 per cent, in part the result of “inflamed passions” during the presidential election.
“Why is it that the death of a white woman at the hands of a white supremacist group has finally gotten the attention of white folk?”
It was the question that Diana Ratcliff would ask in an op-ed letter to CNN, little more than a week after the death of her cousin, Heather Heyer. “How many black families, Latino families, Asian families, Native-American families before us have been left broken from this ugly vein of hatred in our country?”
Like the many other questions borne from the Unite the Right rally, her questions have no easy answers. Sadly, there are only two things we know for certain: the divisions of race and the consequences of terror.
But that’s just According to Adrienne.