Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s statue stands above a crowd of white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA. (Photo credit: Chip Somodeville, Getty Images)
USA Today published an Opinion piece by 20-year old Caleb Ecarma, a 20-year old Filipino American born and raised in upstate North Carolina, who also is currently an intern over at the publication. He opens is opinion piece with the following statement:
I witnessed violence firmly take hold in downtown Charlottesville. These white supremacists are as real as the racists of the 1860s and 1960s.
Growing up in a socially conservative part of the American South, Ecarma was to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, loved the counter-culture movement of the time, listening to Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and read Gloria Steinem and Hunter S. Thompson, with the intent of becoming a journalist.
What he witnessed this weekend in Charlottesville, VA, made him recall about an America on the edge from his studies of the 1960s and realized this version never went away, as he stood in a sea of violent white supremacists.
Ecarma recounts his childhood, standing up to fellow children in the playground who were obviously conditioned by their parents to think a certain way:
However, even if the war to end slavery ended close to 150 years ago, I grew up in a part of the South that didn’t drift too far from those racist roots. As a Filipino-American, I remember dramatically standing out at a church playground because I had the audacity to tell white children I supported the Union’s side in the Civil War — rather than the side their families still support.
“Well, my dad says Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were true men of God,” was the defense of Confederate generals that I would often hear as a 10-year-old. “The confederacy was about defending our homes,” was another — one that I am sure elementary school aged children did not come up with themselves.
What he witnessed this weekend, and to be frank, survived, was confirmation of what he’s always seen as a kid and young adult growing up in the South — Racism in the America, especially in the South, is all to real, and stronger than ever, legitimized by Donald Trump, who sees the alt-right as an influential constituency and won’t publicly condemn their racism in the clearest terms.
The actions of the alt-right is a last-ditch effort by the White Nationalist movement to grasp and hang on to America’s racist past. With the removal of the General Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park, they see this as an erasure of white power and the radicalism of People of Color.
Ecarma ends with a powerful statement:
As a 20-year-old student journalist, I came to Charlottesville to report on a racist movement that’s recently gained popularity, but I left the city with a reminder of the racists who have always existed in America — from the back roads of South Carolina to the White House. While their views and words may be protected by the First Amendment, we all have a duty to ensure that the beliefs of these white supremacists are erased from our nation’s future — just like that Confederate statue soon will be.
To read the original opinion piece, head over to USA Today: I’m 20, Filipino-American and from the South. Here’s what I saw in Charlottesville.