A year after Charlottesville, extremists on all sides endanger our future

A year after Charlottesville, extremists on all sides endanger our future
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As we mark the first anniversary of the violent protests and counterprotests in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the deaths of a woman and two police officers, we are in no better place with respect to race and injustice in our country. The issue of race is being used as a political weapon on both sides and is fueling the growing divide that threatens to descend us into tribalism.  

The same forces involved in the Charlottesville riots are angling for a rematch in Washington, D.C. We have fascists on the right who claim to represent disaffected white people. We have anarchists on the left who purport to speak for the marginalized, minorities and the poor. They ready themselves to battle it out again — with the only outcome being more racial strife and calls to remove the symbols of southern resistance by taking down statues of generals and renaming schools and streets, trying to right the wrongs of the past by killing the dead.


In truth, the extremists do not truly promote the interests of the whites or blacks and browns whom they purport to represent. These fringe groups denigrate the rich heritage of the founding virtues and principles of our country.


The significant gains of the civil rights movement were built and won by people employing these founding principles and values, not just protest tactics. Unfortunately, these new “civil rights warriors” have all but abandoned these values. Some of these leaders believe that America cannot be redeemed and instead must be made to pay endless reparations and bear bottomless guilt for the transgressions she inflicted via slavery. Conversely, many of the white nationalists espouse these principles and virtues but believe they apply exclusively to whites.   

Leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois believed in the American creed and did everything they could to force it to live up to its promise. Dr. King declared: “We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom.”  

Although throughout American history racism posed an obstacle to achieving that goal, Dr. King believed that the Founders had set the nation on the right course and he did not reject the principles of our nation because contradictions existed. His motivation and deepest hope was that racial groups would put aside their differences and acknowledge the principles that unite all Americans.  

This is a far cry from today’s race hustlers who profit handsomely in terms of money and power by keeping race a divisive, front-and-center issue. They, along with their guilty white liberal enablers, and the media who cover both, pose as the vanguard of today’s civil rights movement and cannot resist the opportunity to seize the podium or highly-visible positions in marches and protests before returning to their safe, upscale neighborhoods. They claim to represent the marginalized but bear no resemblance to either Dr. King or his method.

Dr. King upheld the values of personal responsibility, reciprocity and mutual support. It is on the foundation of those values and virtues that visionary blacks in America were able to make great strides in business and education, even during pre-civil rights eras of the Reconstruction and Jim Crow.

Throughout the past four decades, my organization, The Woodson Center, has created a nationwide network of hundreds of black, white and brown grassroots leaders in low-income neighborhoods whose remarkable victories in uplifting their communities and reclaiming lives have built their work on those values and principles.

We work with the true warriors for justice who face down devastating societal evils, working tirelessly day and night, year after year, to reclaim and uplift the lives of those they serve. The values of personal responsibility, reciprocity and mutual support mend communities and lives broken by life’s disadvantages. These principles are integral to their uplift and survival. An attack on these values is an attack on their future.  

 Black and brown people living in drug-infested, crime-ridden neighborhoods have more in common with whites who live in trailer parks and voted for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE than they have with their elitist overlords. These groups must come together to speak for themselves, act on their own behalf and form the basis of a new civic and political coalition. They must cease letting the extremists on either side continue to pimp them.

It is their children who populate the nation’s prisons, foster care system and failing public schools. It is their families who are being driven out of affordable housing because of gentrification, and are victims of drug addiction. It is their families who suffer from lack of law enforcement when the police are vilified.  

These groups should come together to share lessons and exchange strategies of liberation instead of fanning the embers of disintegration. This gathering should be the basis for a new fellowship — a fraternity of the delivered. For all groups, the road to recovery is through the power of redemption, not through racial grievance.  

Robert L. Woodson Sr. founded The Woodson Center in 1981 to help residents of low-income neighborhoods address problems of their communities. He has headed the National Urban League Department of Criminal Justice, and has been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Foundation for Public Policy Research. Follow him on Twitter @BobWoodson.