Charlottesville Was a Violent Clash of Identity Politics


Members of white nationalists clash against a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

All Americans of good faith were horrified by the events in Charlottesville over the weekend. To see that sort of political violence on U.S. soil is nothing short of horrifying.

Ostensibly the Unite the Right rally was aimed at protesting the removal of local Confederate monuments, but let’s not kid ourselves. The protest and counter-protest from the left-wing antifa movement and its fellow travelers were using the fight over the monuments as a proxy for a much fight over identity.

For participants on both sides of the violence, identity is paramount. Whether it’s the social justice warriors of the self styled anti-fascist movement, whose flavor of “social justice” resembles fascism to an ironic degree, or the white nationalists in the alt-right movement.

It’s clear that this political divide is about what you are not what you think.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The key to solving the problems at the heart of Charlottesville is drawing a sharp line between the extremists and the rest of us.[/mks_pullquote]

This is a sharp contrast to historical political divides between the American right and left which hinged on philosophical differences. It used to be that one branded himself/herself as a liberal or a conservative because of positions on policies like trade, war, government spending, or taxes.

But to the fanatics we saw fighting one another in Charlottesville, it’s things like skin color and sexual orientation which matter more.

All weekend the usual panoply of pundits – both of the professional and amateur variety – took to the various mediums of media to attempt to shoehorn the events of Charlottesville into the typical left versus right political narrative. There was a lot of pie throwing about who wasn’t sufficiently condemning the violence, and who was responsible for inspiring it.

What a waste of time.

The problem is that these movements, both the alt-right and antifa, don’t fit those narratives. The events in Charlottesville transcend conservative versus liberal, or Republican versus Democrat, rivalries.

What happened in western Virginia was a battle in the war between the extremists of identity politics.

The first step in solving a problem is understanding what that problem is.

The key to understanding Charlottesville is knowing that it’s something apart from traditional American politics.

The key to solving the problems at the heart of Charlottesville is drawing a sharp line between the extremists and the rest of us.

Remember, there are more events in the vein of the Unite the Right protest scheduled for the coming days and weeks. This may be just the beginning.