The comforts in considering the white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., to be fringe are obvious. For white people, speaking of them and their views as if they’re unique and anomalous allows them (the “good” white people) to distinguish themselves from these racists, while also minimizing their ubiquity and influence. If they’re fringe—if they only exist in the crevices and butt cracks of the country—the good white people can continue to believe they’ve done enough, and they can eat their quiche with peace of mind.
And, for those of us (and “us” could be black people, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals and anyone else the nationalists believe are oppressing them and wish to rid America of) who still believe in the fantasy of the fringe alt-right, the comfort exists in convincing ourselves that there just aren’t that many of them. Because if they’re not fringe, if they’re actually everywhere, then ... fuck.
Unfortunately, “then ... fuck” is the reality. The men and women who marched last night, chanting and hashtagging #unitetheright, and the men and women in Charlottesville today, are not fringe. They are not unique. Perhaps they exist in the crevices and butt cracks, but they’re in the coffeeshops and boardrooms too. They are your neighbors. Our neighbors. My neighbors. They’re schoolteachers and Little League baseball coaches; bartenders and accountants; architects and marketing directors; registered nurses and police officers. They wait on your tables, they answer the phones when you call tech support, they fly your planes when you travel to Phoenix, they deliver your UPS packages and leave notes when you’re not there, and they perform surgeries on your broken limbs.
And for the white people who believe they’ve done enough, who believe their hands are washed, they’re at your kitchen tables and happy hours and BBQs and weddings. They’re in your families. They’re on your couches. They’re on your T-Mobile family plans. They’re in your beds.
There were enough of them to elect Donald Trump, enough of them to applaud and support the ascension of Steve Bannon and the appointment of Jeff Sessions. Enough white men and women so dead set on retaining whichever privileges they believe to be their white birthrights that they’d rather there not be an Earth than exist without that status.
They are everywhere.