From Charlottesville to Santa Fe: Smash Racist Memorials, Smash White Supremacy
By The Red Nation, August 15, 2017
We condemn the bigoted terror that white supremacists used against anti-racist and anti-fascist forces this past weekend in #Charlottesville. A diverse coalition of progressives, LGBTQ rights advocates, anti-racists, feminists, socialists, communists, clergy, and anarchists took to the streets in unity Saturday to deny white supremacy a platform to spew its hateful and murderous agenda. The violence committed by right-wing forces resulted in the death of a comrade, Heather Heyer, and left 19 others severely injured. Although it was the largest white supremacist gathering in recent history, the “Unite The Right” rally was completely outnumbered and disgraced by the groundswell of people —many of whom were local Charlottesville residents — who came out to condemn racism and genocide.
The night before, dozens of white supremacists descended upon the University of Virginia Charlottesville campus, brandishing torches that harkened back to classic images of the Ku Klux Klan. Led by Alt-Right personality Richard Spencer, these neo-Klansmen gathered to protest the planned removal of a monumental statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee. The Charlottesville City Council approved the statue’s removal in November 2016 following four years of public debate and advocacy in the city. As many well know, Lee was the Confederate Army’s top general, and his image represents the racist and vile institution of slavery that the Confederacy fought in part to preserve.
During the gathering, Spencer and other white supremacists chanted the Nazi phrase “blood and soil,” as well as the racist and colonial phrase “you will not replace us.” Why do we call the chant “you will not replace us” colonial? As Jodi Byrd points out, “you will not replace us” is “a rallying cry of settler imperialists who remove and displace indigenous peoples,” who destroy us in order to replace us. In addition to its roots in the terrorization of Black life, white supremacy has always operated according to a genocidal logic of destroy-to-replace. Anti-Black racism and the genocide of Indigenous existence–also known as settler colonialism —are twin pillars of white supremacy at the heart of “Unite The Right,” and, indeed, at the heart of US nationalism.
There are undeniable parallels between the reaction of Spencer and his Nazi hoard to the removal of racist symbols in the South, and the violent reaction of Hispano and White elites in the Southwest to efforts to abolish symbols that glorify and celebrate genocide. There is a reason why efforts to abolish white supremacist holidays, monuments, statues, and university seals have been met with this type of opposition. They represent ideological attachments to the status quo. That status quo in the US is white supremacy, and its proponents are willing to kill in order to preserve it.
During our 2016 campaign to #AbolishTheRacistSeal at the University of New Mexico, we experienced numerous attacks from people claiming that we sought to “erase their history.” During an open forum on campus where the seal was being discussed, a White man who called himself Patrick wearing the signature red MAGA baseball cap spewed Alt-Right rhetoric and accused us of attacking ”white civilization.” He ended his tirade by threatening Native people in the room with “forceful blowback.” UNM administrators in the room sat silently and did nothing.
We clearly saw that “forceful blowback” manifest in murder in Charlottesville this past weekend.
As The Red Nation has continued to promote the abolition of symbols of white supremacy here in the Southwest (our community campaign to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in Albuquerque is another example), so too has the vitriol from white supremacists in this region intensified.
These folks use rhetoric and tactics similar to their counterparts in Charlottesville. The claim that we are trying to “erase their history” parallels the claim that “you will not replace us;” both operate according to the arrogance of rightful possession that settlers–relative newcomers to these lands–use to constantly justify the theft of Indigenous land and the continued genocide of our lifeways.
As we prepare to protest the Entrada, which is a re-enactment that glorifies conquest much in the same way that Civil War re-enactments in the South glorify slavery, we prepare ourselves for the “forceful blowback” that was promised to us last year. Trump’s presidency, which has fanned the flames of white supremacy and allowed white supremacists — himself included — to gain a foothold in powerful and dangerous positions, has brought this conflagration to our doorstep in New Mexico.
Indigenous people will not tolerate white supremacy in our homelands.
Yet, the newly formed Santa Fe Power group adopts a political line associated with popular ultra-right, white supremacist movements. This potential opposition, coupled with violent Santa Fe cops who outwardly advocate for the exact type of murder we saw in Charlottesville, make for a particularly hostile climate. Let’s not forget that the Santa Fe Police union chief Sergeant Troy Baker posted a meme this February to his Facebook page that encouraged murderers like James A. Fields to run over citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.
The Santa Fe Reporter reported in February:
The Santa Fe Police Department’s internal affairs unit on Monday opened an investigation of the local police union president for incendiary posts shared on his Facebook page, including memes disparaging Muslims, African Americans and the transgender community.
What must be understood is that the recent visibility of racist, anti-Black, and anti-Indigenous violence is not new, but merely a continuation of the violence enacted by figures like Don Diego DeVargas and Robert E. Lee in the name of genocide, slavery, and empire. The people who outwardly seek the protection of such infamous figureheads and imagery are not oblivious to the heinous history they hold; they are fully aware that they actively benefit from these brutal racist and colonial legacies. This is why Black resistance and Indigenous resistance alike is unsettling for those who already hold power, including the police, local politicians, and other elites who allow white supremacy to fester in their communities.
With the presence of SWAT team snipers on rooftops at least year’s Entrada protest, followed by hateful threats flooding our personalmail, email, and private phone numbers and now the establishment of Santa Fe Power, the question remains: will we see such events unfold in Santa Fe as we did in Charlottesville? The brutalization of Pueblo people at the hands of those defending a Catholic event that celebrates the genocidal DeVargas would literally re-create an image right out of 1692, one in which Indigenous refusals are met with the same savagery conquistadores returned to this land with.
The answer to this question lies with the Fiestas Council and the City of Santa Fe. If in fact, Los Caballeros, and the many Santa Fe city council members who once belonged to Los Caballeros, wish to make it clear that they do not condone white supremacy, they must take proactive measures to acknowledge the blood that can never be washed from the hands of all those who brought conquest to this land and all who reap their power and privilege from that conquest today. And they, as people who occupy Pueblo land as guests, must do the right thing and #AbolishTheEntrada so that any such violence is prevented.
White supremacy should not be given a platform, whether this be within the halls of the White House or within a cultural and religious celebration like the Entrada. Despite what white supremacists and their apologists want us to believe about their right to “free speech,” our position has nothing to do with the First Amendment. White supremacists abuse “free speech” as a smoke screen to bully, often with force, their way into power. They don’t care about “free speech.” They want genocide and violence.
Our position to abolish racist celebrations by public institutions such as the Entrada has nothing to do with free speech. Public institutions have no lawful right to denigrate groups of people or promote religious celebrations such as the Entrada. We also maintain that Indigenous peoples have never relinquished our right to exercise legal, political, moral, and spiritual authority on our own homelands.
Our laws came first from the earth — and they still do.
We are not conflicted or confused about these facts. We do not normalize white supremacy by incorporating it into constitutional law debates about free speech that are themselves premised on the continued colonial occupation of Native lands. Nor are we afraid to stand up against white supremacy to protect our relatives and all oppressed peoples in our homelands. We will act in unison with our comrades in Charlottesville who are on the right side of history. We invite you to stand with us.
The decision is yours, Santa Fe.