By Michael McCurry
On October 28, back-to-back white nationalist rallies were held in two small Tennessee cities. The protests, organized by some of the same groups behind the violent Charlottesville rally, targeted ongoing refugee resettlements in the surrounding area. Protests began around 8 a.m. in Shelbyville and shifted 35 miles north to Murfreesboro for a second rally on the same day.
The main organizers of the two rallies was an organization called The Nationalist Front which embraces groups deemed as Neo-Nazi and Neo-Confederate by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.
In both cases, counter-protesters vastly outnumbered the white supremacy demonstrators who numbered around 100 people in Shelbyville. Comparatively, counter-protesters had roughly double the numbers. The second protest only involved 15 white supremacists, who quickly dispersed when met by over 500 counter-protesters. When a member of one of the hate groups took to a microphone to speak to the crowd, the counter-protesters drowned out his monologue with a recording of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech. White demonstrators responded with chants of “blood and soil,” which is the English translation of “Blut und Boden,” a favorite chant in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Police were able to keep the two sides separate, ending the two protests without incident.
Rallies such as the ones in Middle-Tennessee and Charlottesville are becoming more common as an increasing number of white Americans believe they are the real targets of racism. A recent poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, showed that 55 percent of white Americans believe that white people suffer from racial discrimination in America today. Earlier this year, a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found 52 percent of working-class white people believe discrimination against them is just as bad or worse than against black people. This number falls significantly among white people with a higher education.
“I think a lot of the cause is coming from growing populations of minority groups and the continued equalization of rights,” said Tyler Salter (’19). “When you have experienced privilege for so long, the loss of your advantages begins to feel like suppression.”
As the alt-right and other nationalist groups continue to march forward with plans for nationwide demonstrations, Angelica Babao (‘19) was left puzzled by their cause. “What is it like to be so pathetic as to invent your own oppression so that you can feel special?”