What Merck, Airbnb and GoDaddy Understand about Charlottesville

August 14, 2017, 7:36 PM UTC

It ostensibly started with the menacing image of angry men in polo shirts and tiki torches surrounding an unarmed group of University of Virginia college students carrying handmade signs.

After a weekend of clashes and neo-Nazi threats and violence, the now-famous “Unite The Right” rally ended with many injuries and one fatality, the horrific death-by-motorist of Heather D. Heyer, a peaceful counter-protester. Two Virginia State Police officers, monitoring the situation, were also killed in a helicopter crash.

But in reality, all of this began long before the white supremacists rolled into Charlottesville, Va to defend the honor of a statue of Robert E. Lee. And the horror hasn’t ended, either for Charlottesville or for the rest of the country.

In the wake of the violence, there was no “fire and fury” from President Trump. Instead, waving off advice to condemn the terrorism explicitly, he called it an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence that’s on many sides.”

Buzzfeed has an excellent on-the-ground tick-tock of events here. The hatred, bigotry and violence does not remotely appear to be “on many sides.”

The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, heralded the president’s remarks. “He didn’t attack us,” the outlet wrote. “Refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

Where the president fell short, other people stood up.

In the days before the rally, Airbnb began suspending accounts of attendees who had rented lodging in the area. Why? Because white nationalist philosophy is a violation of their terms of service.

The web hosting company GoDaddy booted The Daily Stormer after it posted an article denigrating Heather Heyer. “We informed The Daily Stormer that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another provider, as they have violated our terms of service,” the company said in a statement.

Hate groups can expect more of the same. The Los Angeles Times’s Matt Pearce has a must-read piece about how hate groups are being forced to set up their own alt-services — from “Nazi Uber” to a hate-themed crowdfunding site called “Hatreon.”

And Monday was no better for the movement. Merck’s CEO, Ken Frazier, said today that he was resigning from President Trump‘s manufacturing council. “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental views by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” he said in a statement. (For what it’s worth, the president only took 54 minutes to respond to Frazier with a nasty threat.)

Even TIKI managed to issue a statement. “TIKI Brand is not associated in any way with the events that took place in Charlottesville and are deeply saddened and disappointed. We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way. Our products are designed to enhance backyard gatherings and to help family and friends connect with each other at home in their yard.”

So what are you going to say today? Tomorrow? To the white nationalist in the next cubicle? In the high potential pool? Who underwrites your project? Who is your best supplier?

I have no easy answers, though it’s clear our work is cut out for all of us. You can take this column as my pledge to keep surfacing ideas and exploring strategies for dealing with the legacy of racism, our collective shame and stain.

Consider starting with this essay by author Kelly J. Baker. She focused on the Klan for her dissertation as part of a PhD program in American religious history, and her thoughts on what she learned are illuminating – but not about the Klan. (She starts with a bit of chit-chat about the election that some Trump voters may not enjoy, but stick with it.)

She talks about the scores of ethnographies she’d read, and how white, liberal social scientists were shocked, shocked to discover that most of the Klan members they studied were pretty nice people. They were not cartoon villains. They went to church. They had manners. The researchers were, to an alarming degree, largely unable to reconcile the fundamental decency of people with their beliefs in white supremacy. “Pop culture obscures the heartbreaking ordinariness of members of white supremacist organizations,” writes Baker. “They look like other white people. They speak like other white people. They act like other white people.”

And therein lies the most insidious part of the terror they instill. They are like other people until suddenly, they’re not.

Because hate is so often invisible, especially within others who look like them, its emergence can take white allies by surprise. Of course, striving to understand the lived experiences of marginalized people remains job number one. But turning away from the Nazi next door is simply not an option. They’re there. They’re us. And now we all have to figure out what to say next.

On Point

Peter Cvjenatovic is a white nationalist who cares for all peopleHe’s only 20 years old, but his angry, shouting face has become an iconic image from the Unite the Right rally. Click through for his completely rational sounding explanation that even though he’s a white nationalist, he’s not racist. “I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” he told KTVN news. But other things, like his status as a student at the University of Nevada, are now at risk.KTVN

James Damore: Why I was fired at Google
It’s absolutely worth reading the whole thing, but Damore insists that his memo only became an issue when it reached those most “zealously committed to the diversity creed—that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and all people are inherently the same—[who] could not let this public offense go unpunished.” He remains convinced he was both right and reasonable.
Wall Street Journal

Op-Ed: Sundar Pichai should resign
The New York Times’s David Brooks echoes Damore’s own opinion piece, with one of his own. At the heart of his argument is that the science Damore cites is largely correct, though his point was a mismatch with the “sensible critics” who “are describing a different truth, one that exists on another level,” of gender discrimination in a male-dominated workplace. Google failed to thread that needle. He calls out Danielle Brown, Google’s diversity officer, then the media. “The mob that hounded Damore was like the mobs we’ve seen on a lot of college campuses,” he writes. But he saves his choicest criticism for CEO Sundar Pichai.
New York Times

It’s Shonda’s world now, folks
Shonda Rhimes, the resplendent creator of ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Scandal,’ and more has left her home at ABC Studios for Netflix. The move bodes well for Rhimes’s next act. “Shonda Rhimes is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of television,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said. Though her signature shows will continue to air on ABC, bigger and better content is ahead.  Of Sarandos, Rhimes said, “He understood what I was looking for — the opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix’s singular sense of innovation.”
Hollywood Reporter

The Woke Leader

An anti-fascist film from 1943 is reminding people of the bad old days
It’s a fascinating bit of propaganda, created by the same people who made virulent anti-Japanese films, so there's that. But Don’t Be a Sucker, which originally played in movie theaters, was commissioned by the U.S. military to help teach people how not to fall for fascist rhetoric. It's intense, not just for the look back at the analog version of the Facebook post. People actually stood on soap-boxes and said terrible things! To actual people!
The Conversation

Black students at the University of Virginia have been making demands since 1987
Their goal has always been a more inclusive university, one with a more diverse faculty and a happier student body, and have submitted three thorough documents since 1987. Very few of their strategies have ever been embraced, although officials do point to the creation of an Office of Diversity and Equity. But in 2015, black students supported by 29 other groups, added on, asking for the university to commit to embracing a culture of truth. “You have to start being honest about U.Va’s history, U.Va’s present, and you also have to be honest about the world in which we live,” said the Black Student Alliance president.
Cavalier Daily

Handling the diversity question in a job interview
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a thorough take on how hiring teams should ask “the diversity question” when vetting prospective department chairs or deans, and on the flip side, how candidates should avoid sounding trite. One tip: It matters who asks the question. “A minority candidate watching the lone minority on the committee ask the diversity question sends a signal that, if hired, this applicant will be burdened, too, with dozens of future tasks on committees — not because of any subject-matter expertise, but because of his or her race/ethnicity.” The advice is fully applicable to corporate hiring managers and executive job seekers. Subscription required (sorry.)
Chronicle of Higher Education


What blocks our progress is the meme that has been carefully implanted in White people’s minds over the course of decades of programming, from Mississippi Burning to Lee Daniel's The Butler—that any kind of positive racial feeling among Whites is inherently evil and stupid and derives solely from bigotry and resentment. And that the political and social advancement of non-Whites is inherently moral and wonderful.
—Richard Spencer

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