Initially, the United States was formed as a heterogeneous society, in which traditions of tolerance were historically strong. However, this did not exclude fierce clashes based on religious, ethnic, or racial hostility. Now the relative stability of American society is facilitated by a high standard of living, the promotion of tolerance for different opinions, worldviews, and behavior. Moreover, there is powerful police-bureaucratic apparatus capable of protecting the rights of minorities. At the same time, modern trends show racial conflict, which proceeds in a latent form, but periodically breaks out, as it happened in Charlottesville in 2017. The USA is shaken by protests against racism, accompanied by riots. In particular, the protesters destroy and knock down the statues of the Confederates, as the article Johnston describes.
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In August 2017, hundreds of racists took part in a rally at the University of Virginia against an intention to remove a monument to Confederate General Robert Lee, who commanded the forces of the southern states of America during the Civil War. In parallel, their ideological opponents, the radical left, took to the march. Clashes began, and a car driven by a right-wing fanatic drove into the column of liberal activists; a woman, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed, and almost 20 others were injured. Charlottesville is not the only city where racial clashes take place, and in those states where the carrying of weapons by citizens is allowed, the situation becomes the most acute.
Leading US politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties strongly condemned the actions of the racists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, as well as their “hate ideology.” However, Donald Trump’s reaction was criticized as belated and controversial – the US president initially refused to directly condemn the extreme right and did so only two days later, after which he again blamed “both sides” (Johnston, 2018). It is difficult to disagree with this, since Trump’s “overtures” with nationalists during the election campaign led to the tragedy, and contributed to the growth of radical sentiments in the country. Many representatives of the establishment and civil society call Trump to listen to the demands of citizens, otherwise, the riots may develop into civil confrontation.
Donald Trump’s nationalist campaign slogans attracted not only white conservatives to his side but also radical elements, including the KKK and neo-Nazis. Johnston (2018) rightly notes that liberal organizations have long labeled the president as “racist” for this. Such slogans were widely used against him during demonstrations after his election victory. After the events in Charlottesville, Mayor Mike Singer accused Trump of activating the ultra-right and racists in the United States.
Large-scale protests by liberal activists and clashes with the police after Donald Trump’s victory in elections were a manifestation of a degree of bitterness and intolerance in a divided society. However, his predecessors can hardly boast of success in the racial field. The “liberal revolution” announced by the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama, did not always meet the expectations of African Americans, but it turned out to be too fast for conservative corners of America. As a result, seemingly good intentions only exacerbated the social division, and the events in Charlottesville are a prime example.
The centuries-old attempts to end racism and its most ugly manifestations in American society have not led to the emergence of effective means of harmonizing interethnic relations in the United States. To this day, the problem of race relations in America is like a dormant volcano, ready to awaken at any moment. To abolish slavery, the country had to go through a bloody civil war, and only a hundred years later, segregation, that is, legal discrimination against blacks, was canceled by the 1953 law. Many of those who remember how blacks were not allowed to visit restaurants for whites are still alive today. However, several generations of Americans have already grown up under the new laws and norms of life. Much of what the Americans were ready to endure half a century ago, they are not ready to endure now. This is vividly confirmed by the events in Charlottesville: social norms have changed, so the same actions today lead to different consequences.
In America, there are no influential political forces based on racial or ethnic principles. The interests of racial-ethnic groups are expressed in one form or another by the Republicans and Democrats, who absorb some of the demands formulated by the protest movements. Racist and nationalist sentiments are forced to go into the semi-legal and illegal sphere. Liberal experts regard the current aggravation of racial-ethnic relations and the problems of immigration only as temporary difficulties that will soon be successfully resolved by American democracy.
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At present, the officially declared policy of racial integration continues, and the propaganda of liberal values, tolerance, and the ideology of human rights and freedoms is being carried out. The authorities attempt to suppress evident extremist manifestations. At the same time, in recent years in the United States, it has become possible to publicly discuss racial issues and racial identity. The debatable question is whether a positive strategy of a balanced solution to a racial conflict that satisfies the interests of all parties involved is possible in principle. The situation can be mitigated through depolarization, the implementation of social changes, but the scenario of a complete settlement of the problem is not currently visible.
Johnston, D. C. (2018). Its even worse than you think. Simon & Shuster.