Two years and one day ago, civil rights activist Heather Heyer was murdered by a neo-Nazi while protesting at a white supremacist rally.
Since then, our nation has watched in anguish and horror as the full extent of the white supremacist machine has been slowly exposed across the world while its footsoldiers have claimed dozens more innocent lives.
In those two years, it’s hard to feel like we’ve made any progress at all in combatting the ugly specter of white hatred. On the contrary, it has become clear that we have vastly underestimated our enemy and were blind to how much support they receive from the political and economic elites in this nation.
As the president pushes white supremacist conspiracy theories from his Twitter account and his deportation force funnels tens of thousands of migrants into concentration camps, white supremacist violence has skyrocketed. In the past two years, there have been six mass shootings explicitly linked to white supremacy in the United States that have killed 41 and 52 injured, on top of the 7,175 hate crimes committed in 2017 alone.
Over 100 people have been arrested by the FBI for plotting domestic terrorist attacks, the vast majority of which FBI Director Wray confirmed were “motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.”
As the frequency of white supremacist violence spikes, it is incredibly disturbing to learn how deeply sympathy for white supremacist runs in American law enforcement agencies.
Beyond the decades-old warnings from the FBI, the evidence is abundant; one only has to look at the photographs of Charlottesville police posing for photos with white supremacists or to peek behind the curtain into the racist Facebook groups where hundreds of police officers share pro-Confederate memes.
When you see the NYPD turn the other cheek as white nationalists beat up protestors in the street, watch any of the hundreds of viral videos showing police officers abusing people of color, or read the reports about how the FBI was more interested in monitoring “black identity groups” than tracking neo-Nazis, it’s clear that the enemy hides in their ranks.
While centrist corporate media clings to their “both sides” veneer of objectivity at the same time as they exhibit open hostility towards anti-fascist groups, the spread of American white supremacy and the whitewashing of its appalling crimes is cheered on by a ferocious right-wing propaganda machine funded by shadowy billionaires.
White supremacist rhetoric is openly broadcast on a nightly basis to an audience of two and half million people on the FOX News network while our local television news stations are quietly being absorbed into a shadowy right-wing media conglomerate and are forced to run pro-Trump content.
Social media is flooded with white nationalist agitprop from openly racist billionaire-funded publications that exist solely to promote an extremist narrative. On the other side of the aisle, newsrooms working determinedly to expose the Trump administration’s most heinous deeds are being culled en masse by executives who care more about their bottom line than their civic duty to inform the public.
Media executives, of course, aren’t the only businessmen involved in enabling white supremacy for profit. While social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have to be relentlessly pressured into making even a cursory effort to stem the tsunami of white supremacist content circulating on their platforms, tech companies knowingly host white supremacist websites and finance companies like Mastercard profit off processing fundraising payments to white supremacists across the world.
Wall Street fills the war chests of white nationalist politicians, advertisers rake in the cash off the ads on white nationalist TV anchors like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, and for-profit prison companies make a killing off operating the concentration camps which house the victims of the president’s soft ethnic cleansing campaign.
Far from having been a tipping point in the battle against white supremacy, the death of Heather Heyer has brought into full focus how all the various flavors and intensities of white supremacy, white nationalism, and far-right extremism are coddled and nurtured by the monied interests that control the levers of power and influence in the United States.
As the body count continues to grow, so does the necessity that we aggressively confront not only the white supremacists themselves but their enablers. To do so is going to involve a confrontation with American capitalism as we know it today; the ultrawealthy oligarchs and the corporate behemoths they control have been quietly fanning the flames of white hatred for decades in order to gain political power, push their deregulatory agenda and likely out of their personal prejudices.
If we want Heather to have not died in vain, we need to recognize that this goes far beyond Donald Trump or a small minority of disgruntled young white men, and to be ready to hold them and their enablers accountable for what they’ve done to this country.