Tag Archives: Confederate

Identity, Language, and Symbolism at Charlottesville, Virginia: American vs. Foreign, Patriotic vs. Subversive, Confederate vs. Communist

Cover Photo, No automatic alt text available.

 
your Profile Photo, Image may contain: 1 person, indoor 

What exactly happened in Charlottesville? Several people invited me to go along. I was not optimistic. The Left-Wing media have had a field day, especially with the fact that Trump isn’t (yet) participating in the show of condemnation for White Supremacists…. BUT WHY are White Supremacists playing into the hands of the liberals by dressing as Klansmen and Nazis and using slogans that evoke those eras and their distinctive rituals?

The problem is one of choice of language and symbolic expression…. People rally around what they know, if they rally at all, and because of LEFTIST propaganda, all that most people know about the traditions of White Supremacy are the KKK and the Nazis—the left even chooses and frames our language and symbolic expression for us. That is the tragedy….

I would prefer to call myself a Traditional (Jacksonian) Southern Democrat, a Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican, or just an old-Fashioned Confederate (never a “Neo-Confederate”—sounds like “Neon”) …. But as late as the Watergate hearings in the 1970s, it was still the SOUTHERN DEMOCRATS in Congress who were the forefront of White Resistance to Integration. Why don’t White Resisters try to retake the Democratic Party, or at least the name and heritage of the Democratic Party? Why not quote Sam Ervin or Herman Talmadge or John Stennis or (the early, Dixiecrat) Strom Thurmond, or George Wallace or Theodore Bilbo? Why not resurrect the Red Rooster flag? (I’m looking for posters and other Party insignia with that Rebel Rooster…. PM me if you have any and are willing to sell…)

But when I try to explain all this, nobody understands. The level of historical awareness is so low among young people that very few Whites even fully understand what happened in the 1940s and 50s. What was the first “modern” Civil Rights Act of 1948 about? [Answer, mostly about “lynching”—i.e. public non-institutional but open and transparent capital trials and execution of sentences of death “by the consent of the governed”].

So, how and why was lynching outlawed? How did lynching operate and why did lynching exist in the first place? [Answer: most rural communities and small towns did not have effective police forces up through the 1950s and even into the 60s, so the people were responsible for their own safety and security, and lawyers were very expensive for everybody]. Do most people know that President Harry Truman was absolutely AGAINST the Civil Rights Act of 1948 but was coerced into signing it? Harry Truman said that the use of institutional courts vs. popular justice was a “POLITICAL QUESTION” in which the Federal Government should not intervene….

What was the Southern Manifesto, for instance??>>>(Answer: it was a brilliant document [drafted by Southern Democratic Senators, almost unanimously except for Al Gore’s father from Tennessee and Lyndon B. Johnson from Texas] attacking Desegregation on Constitutional and Historical grounds].). Who was George Corley Wallace? Who was Strom Thurmond? Who was Orval Faubus? Who was Lester Maddox? Theodore Bilbo? Almost NOBODY involved in American politics knows the answer to most these questions. (I doubt even John McCain, Lindsey Graham, or Hillary Clinton can answer them accurately). 

Comments
Claire Marie Kallenbach
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 7 hrs

Manage

Fernando Cortes
Fernando Cortes I don’t mean to sound like a reductionist but like I said the other day, it’s all about IQ.
Strategizing, planning, thinking things through instead of letting emotions dictate our actions.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 7 hrs

Manage

Charles Edward Lincoln
Charles Edward Lincoln I honestly think it’s education and information rather than IQ…. true, there are a lot of low intelligence people in the “Alt-Right”, but Richard Spencer is not one of them… and neither is Jason Kessler… Nor is William Daniel Johnson—but his (Johnson’s strategy) is just to lie so low that nobody ever sees him….
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply ·

1

· 1 hr · Edited

Manage

Rick Crockett
Rick Crockett I would not allow such to associate with any group I was a part of. I am aware the KKK was only originally a justifiable reaction to the post civil war deconstruction but their validity is long past and their origins tarnished by 20th and now 21st. cenSee More
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply ·

1

· 7 hrs

Remove

Mary Barlow
Mary Barlow There were no klansman out there dressed in robes.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply ·

3

· 7 hrs

Manage

Charles Edward Lincoln replied · 12 Replies · 48 mins
Why couldn’t they have just all shown up in Confederate Uniforms playing Blues, Gospel and Country Music if they wanted to make an “All-American/All Southern Statement”??? Robert E. Lee, to the best of my fairly intense knowledge of history, never staged an URBAN torchlight parade (taking into account that, before electricity, his army may have advanced by torchlight at night…. which is an entirely separate issue…)
Linda Pearl Scott
Linda Pearl Scott They were not white supremacists the issue was removal of the statues and many blacks were against that as well

Image may contain: 1 person, text
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply ·

5

· 6 hrs

Manage

Kenneth Day
Kenneth Day KKK and Nazi thing is mainly in the US but they are often state or Antifa operatives. They are turning this great victory into a loss and should be expelled from Altright and publicly named to stop then sabotaging the movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7g85VejT0chttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UpF8H1ZjcwSee More

LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · Remove Preview · 6 hrs · Edited

Manage

Jack Trayner
Jack Trayner The white race is most definitely under attack. We cannot allow our identity to be shaped and shrunken by our enemies. Personally I am a European National Socialist, that really is who I am.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply ·

2

· 5 hrs

Manage

Don Carter replied · 2 Replies · 41 mins
Brent Fallin
Brent Fallin See my page, Charles.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 5 hrs

Manage

James L. Hicks
James L. Hicks We are under assault we can’t get bogged down by what commies think of apparal. Been a debate that’s went on for decades. I don’t care if your dressed like Ronald McDonald if your willing to punch a commie in the mouth and fight for our children’s future.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply ·

2

· 5 hrs

Manage

Charles Edward Lincoln replied · 8 Replies · 1 hr
Alexander Perez
Alexander Perez These people are not “white supremacists” as much as they are European nationalists that realize there is an even bigger issue than just removing a confederate statue. The fight against communism and anti-european cultural marxism!
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply ·

2

· 4 hrs

Manage

Rebecca VanZant
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 3 hrs

Manage

Meira Rossum
Meira Rossum I KNOW!!! Makes me insane seeing whites completely screw themselves. Handed anti-whites all the ammunition they could want.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 2 hrs

Manage

Don Carter
Don Carter · Friends with John Hoopes

Are you a White Supremacist? If so, feel free to explain to why you feel you are superior to me?
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 2 hrs

Manage

Charles Edward Lincoln replied · 36 Replies · 55 mins
Anthony Crowe
Anthony Crowe Can we really stigmatize the whole movement just because some people who were pro-Nazi and KKK showed up?
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 1 hr

Manage

Hide 12 Replies
Charles Edward Lincoln
Charles Edward Lincoln Anthony Crowe: WE certainly didn’t “really stigmatize the whole movement”—but the Mainstream media did….and everyone in charge of organizing should have known that they would. That’s MY point. I am TOTALLY in favor of historical revision regardinSee More
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 1 hr

Manage

Don Carter
Don Carter · Friends with John Hoopes

Charles Edward Lincoln, is there any reason my kids should have to walk by a statue celebrating the confederacy? It’s confusing and disappointing. You try explaining it to your 6 year old child.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 1 hr

Manage

Kenneth Smith
Kenneth Smith Don Carter Yes, you should have to walk by Confederate statues, because the descendants of those Confederate soldiers live in the area and put them up.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 1 hr

Manage

Charles Edward Lincoln
Charles Edward Lincoln OK, Don Carter, again, you’re forcing me to do the opposite of my original intention, but I’ll tell you how: in 1861, the Federal Government was taken over by a Marxist-sympathizing President and a heavily Marxist-influenced political party dedicated tSee More
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 1 hr · Edited

Manage

Don Carter
Don Carter · Friends with John Hoopes

Charles Edward Lincoln, I appreciate your knowledge on history and your willingness to share your view on it. I hope we will have more discussions in the future. I have to be up early for work. Goodnight.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 55 mins · Edited

Manage

Don Carter
Don Carter · Friends with John Hoopes

Kenneth Smith, Please write how I should tell this to my children and how it is ok and should not bother them.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 53 mins

Manage

Charles Edward Lincoln
Charles Edward Lincoln The Southern ideals of individual liberty coupled with responsibility and self-determination are the rock-bottom core of the American dream. The North opposed those ideals. Good night everybody!
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 52 mins

Manage

Don Carter
Don Carter · Friends with John Hoopes

Yet they owned Human slaves and they justified it by race??? “individual liberty”
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 49 mins · Edited

Manage

Charles Edward Lincoln
Charles Edward Lincoln Don Carter Definitely got to go to bed but, human slavery is a widespread feature of cultures all over the world, NOT unique to the Southern United States.

In fact, all over Africa at the time, slavery was still very common, and remains a real aspecSee More

LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 38 mins

Manage

Kenneth Smith
Kenneth Smith Don Carter “Kenneth Smith, Please write how I should tell this to my children and how it is ok and should not bother them.”

Because it is a memorial to soldiers who valiantly fought and many died. That it is a memorial to Confederate war heroes and veSee More

LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 28 mins · Edited

Manage

Kenneth Smith
Kenneth Smith Don Carter -Yet they owned Human slaves and they justified it by race??? “individual –

Some did, most did not. The US Constitution contains slavery as a protected class of labor, so it was the law of the land.See More

LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 15 mins

Manage

Kenneth Smith
Kenneth Smith https://youtu.be/4OdG2vcO1gU

Waylon Jennings sings the Civil War song “An Old Reconstructed”.
YOUTUBE.COM
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · Remove Preview · 8 mins

Manage

Dirk Darcy
Dirk Darcy Excellent article based upon intelligent observations and articulated brilliantly.
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply · 31 mins

Manage

Charles Edward Lincoln
Charles Edward Lincoln Linguistic usage point to Kenneth Smith: Armies do not “occur” they are organized and built by military leaders with political and economic backing…. No army ever spontaneously or inexplicably “occurred” anywhere…. Sorry, I’m tired nd cranky… I obviously totally agree with you on all substantive issues…
LikeShow more reactions

· Reply ·

1

· 29 mins · Edited

Manage

NEPA for NEW ORLEANS—Monuments & the Cultural Environment of New Orleans—invitation to join me in a new lawsuit to Save New Orleans’ Confederate Heritage

The Fight must go on to save our Southern and Confederate heritage in this beautiful city:
Last week, on March 6, 2017, Judges Higginbothom, Elrod, and Higginson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit summarily upheld Judge Barbier’s ruling Monumental Task Committee v Foxx et al, (Confederate Era Monuments) 157 F.Supp.3d 573 (USDC EDLa, 26 January 2016) without further comment or opinion.  
Back in the Fall of 2015, I suggested at one or more of the New Orleans City Council “Hearings” prior to the removal ordinance that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) provided an alternative litigation strategy. Now that the first round attempts have failed, I wonder whether any of you would be willing to join with me, as pro-se plaintiffs if necessary, asserting that the monuments should not be taken down without an Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA. I know one lawyer who might take this case, but we would have to pay him. I could draft and prepare research (using the Westlaw access at Tulane Law Library if necessary).
If any of you would be willing to contribute your names, time, or money to this cause… or have a group, please write to me at charles.e.lincoln@gmail.com. I will write back or call anyone who would be seriously interested in talking about this.  Even the Monumental Task Committee itself could amend its complaint to include NEPA and abandon some of its counts which didn’t work.  I looked at Judge Barbier’s opinion from last January again and it’s just a denial of a Preliminary Injunction, not a final judgment, so there won’t be any problem with res judicata…even though they lost the first round, they could apply again for a new injunction.  In short, NOTHING IS OVER AND DONE WITH YET.  THIS STORY COULD JUST BE BEGINNING if we have the will to fight…
We could certainly discuss this proposal here on Facebook, also. I know that the preservation of the monuments is at least in part a political question, but so is the preservation of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. NEPA permits us to argue that these monuments are part of the social and cultural fabric of the city, that New Orleans is heavily subsidized by the Federal Government, and that no Federal Funds, or subsidized city funds, should be spent on this project without a full Environmental Impact Statement.
I would suggest that we could lend more weight to this argument if we were to propose that the monuments are embedded in the Victorian Matrix of the City, and that, in fact, New Orleans’ Victorian Architecture and Heritage, including these monuments, should be preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site…. Again, I made this proposal on the floor of the City Council meetings about 18-15 months ago. Some of you may have heard me, but nobody was willing to join me at that point.
The Monumental Task Committee did a heroic job, but it was not legally imaginative or creative. 17 December 2015 Monumental Task Force Verified Complaint for Declaratory & Injunctive Relief, USDC EDLA, 2015_WL_9302986  17 December 2015 Monumental Task Force Verified Complaint for Declaratory & Injunctive Relief, USDC EDLA, 2015_WL_9302986.

 I suggest that there are other avenues we could explore, but I sure don’t want to try it alone…

Revelations on Salon.Com from an Obscure College in Maryland—-the South might indeed rise again?

WEDNESDAY, JUN 5, 2013 12:00 AM UTC

http://www.salon.com/2013/06/05/white_pride_in_my_classroom/

White pride in my classroom

He made me uncomfortable and challenged my worldview. But the biggest surprise: I ended up liking him  BY 

TOPICS: LIFE STORIESEDUCATIONRACISMWRITINGCOLLEGEWHITE POWEREDITOR’S PICKS

White pride in my classroom(Credit: ZQFotography via Shutterstock/Salon)

I didn’t recognize his name at first. It was his writing that caught my attention. An autobiography in 100 words. That was the first assignment, and it was as much for me to get to know my students as to evaluate their writing skills. When I scrolled through the submissions, I saw that many of them were “fun-loving,” “ambitious” and “determined to succeed,” but only one was “living on a radical fringe” that put him at risk of being a “societal leper.” Only one spoke of being duty-bound to a “right wing resistance,” and asserted that if he didn’t stand up for “European folk” and advocate for his race, the “liberal sheep” would continue to erase his heritage.

In an act of piousness, I did to him only what I would have had him do to me: I Googled his name.

I was met with dozens of pictures: grinning in Confederate flag T-shirts, grinning in “Straight Pride” T-shirts, grinning in mid-interview stills excerpted from the evening news.

He was the founder of the White Student Union. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, he would be in my fiction writing class.

I’d been aware of the White Student Union since its inception the semester before, having encouraged my students to participate in the group’s meetings. (If they disrupted the agenda by overwhelming the message of exclusivity with one of inclusion … I wasn’t going to complain.) Their first speaker, a self-described “racial realist,” had spoken glibly, and in radio-show-host tones, about human nature and diversity — how the combination of the two could only lead to tension and conflict, not strength. Shorty after, the Southern Poverty Law Center placed the White Student Union on its national map of hate groups.

I knew all this, but until that moment, I hadn’t put names or faces to the students who’d started the club. And there it was: a name, a face.

I was excited, and immediately ashamed of my excitement. A celebrity, in my classroom.

But the more I clicked through his online persona, the more nervous I became. From what I was reading — and the video clips available — he seemed to be a smooth-talking, levelheaded advocate for his point of view. He had the kind of facts and figures on hand that, though they sounded specious, I couldn’t immediately disprove. What if he challenged me in class?

How would I respond, at the end of the day — having already taught three 75-minute classes, my brain mostly fried — besides saying something innocuous about the beauty of human difference?  I was not able, for instance, to controvert some of the more specific arguments of Pat Buchanan.  I was not current with the politics of the ANC Youth League in South Africa.  I probably should have been. But I also needed to be current in contemporary American fiction, in community container gardening, and with the trade rumors surrounding the Washington Wizards. There were only so many hours in the day. These were the excuses wheeling through my brain.

I was quick to seek out my colleagues, and what they told me seemed right: “Just teach the class. Don’t change anything.”

I consoled myself with that. Teaching fiction argues strongly against the tendency to generalize. Writing about all people of color, for instance, or about all homosexuals, is the same silly oversimplification as writing about all people, which results in flaccid storytelling. Revision often necessitates choosing one of those characters and getting to know them much more intimately—their strengths and weaknesses, the fears that keep them up at night, the small moments of beauty that move them through a day. In other words, to write better fiction, it is not unusual for me to ask my students to humanize their characters. Would I offer any different advice to a “racial realist”? I’d simply teach the stories I was planning to teach, focusing on the unique complexities of the people who populated them.

But the first unsettling moment came early. We were reading, “What Happened During the Ice Storm,” a story about a group of teenage boys who, during an ice storm, are struck by a sudden compassion to remove their jackets and cover some frozen, dazed pheasants. In doing this, they keep the pheasants alive, where otherwise they would have made for easy prey.

As the students discussed this story in groups, he turned companionably in conversation to each of the two women sitting next to him. They seemed to be commiserating about some point the writer was making. But after a few minutes, he raised both hands in exasperation. “I can’t take this!” he said, and put his chin to his chest, removing himself from further chatter.

I thought about what to do. I thought about breaking up the discussions to address his problem as a class. What I came up with was this: I said nothing. And the little pods of conversation in the room continued.

Eventually, I opened them into a circle, and posed the question of the merits (or demerits) of the story’s “happy ending.” He raised his hand and said that the author clearly had no blue-collar background. That this wasn’t a happy ending. His voice was authoritative, measured, articulate. He said that there’s nothing beautiful about an ice storm, that it can wipe out an entire year’s crop. It became clear that by questioning the author, he was, in a way, mocking my own pantywaist reading of the text. The other students looked at one another, a bit like dazed pheasants, themselves, and I conceded that his reading was certainly another way of interpreting the story. He went on to say that furthermore, if he’d ever come home without his jacket in an ice storm, his kin would have beaten him, that by not killing the pheasants, those boys had deprived their families of food. That would be unheard of in a poor rural community.

I asked him where the story gave clues as to the community’s socioeconomics, or if it was possible that a rural community might have the means to be well-fed. He said he’d never seen a rural community that wasn’t poor.

This was the beginning of what I saw to be the primary means of his instigative expression: not the racism I was expecting, but an insistence on intellectualizing a kind of redneck order of the world. An insistence that the things that make liberal professors cringe (child beating, or maybe even the word “kin,” for instance) were the vocabulary of legitimate analysis.

Instead of finding a counter-example — a rural community that was, for instance, doing just fine — I said: “OK. Maybe what I read as compassion or whimsy was actually foolishness. That’s possible, too.”

The following class, he arrived wearing a shirt with a Confederate flag. The words “It Ain’t Over” were printed beneath it, but it was subtle — a dark green shirt, the flag a small one over the breast, with a larger version on the back, which was pressed against his chair. As I saw it, I thought, “What are his rights? Are they limited by the level of distraction he poses?”

When he leaned forward, I thought I saw a student crane her neck suspiciously. But it was only a T-shirt. It was distracting, yes, but not much more so than his camouflaged backpack and crew cut.

That day, we read Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist,” and my questions quickly revealed that he was one of the only ones to have read it. He was quick (and smart) to point out the story’s commentary on the nature of celebrity and its perversions, and seemed to take pleasure in the Hunger Artist’s pitiful death in a bed of straw. “The same thing,” he said, “happens with celebrities today. Just wait until it happens to Miley Cyrus.”

If I was once ashamed of my excitement at having him in class, that shame didn’t keep me from talking about him. Though it made me uncomfortable, he’d become the most interesting part of my teaching. I was primed for something to boil over, but I also found myself liking him. He arrived to class on time; he was prepared; he was respectful. He had a way of calling me professor in the middle of sentences that appealed to my ego. “You know, Professor, what Kafka might be saying here …”

In spite of his militancy, he was quick to joke and smile. He often stayed after class to shoot the breeze a little.

I spoke to a colleague about this, that I felt myself being charmed against my will. She was not surprised. “He’s a community organizer,” she told me. “He has to be likable. He has to be charismatic.”

There’s an anxiety to that, but of course she was right, that people espousing wildly antithetical beliefs to me can — surprise! — be pleasant. They can check me out at grocery stores, and help me with legal documents; they can be my neighbors. And how would I even know?

Or am I simply allowing myself to be fooled? Is it just that, as a middle-class white man, it doesn’t come up all that often? The difference between those people and whatever it was that my student was peddling was that with my student, I’d received the memo beforehand. It was out in the open and brazenly so (the Confederate flags on his shirts were getting larger, and he’d adhered a sticker to his laptop that read “The South WILL Rise Again”).

It was a few weeks later that he stayed after class to alert me to an upcoming absence. He was going to CPAC as a member of the college Republicans. It was decent of him to tell me, but it also seemed like he was bracing for a fight. “It’s an excused absence because the SGA is paying for it,” he said. To my knowledge, there is no such arrangement between the student government and the university. Not that it mattered. I told him it was fine.

I can’t remember how I first saw the videos. It may have been the friend who emailed me, the subject heading: “Is this your student???” I clicked the link and saw the photo at the top of the page; indeed, there he was, wearing that same Confederate flag shirt, and now a credential, looking as open as he often looked in class when discussing “story versus plot.”

The video footage was of a Q&A at a conservative strategy session. And though it wasn’t my student asking the questions, there he was, sitting right next to the questioner (another member of the WSU) without any measure of shock, without offering any restraint, as the question was smugly posed what it was that Fredrick Douglass had to forgive his former slave owner … “giving him shelter and food.”

It was hard for me to take. Though I’d seen it coming, I felt a bit betrayed. I’d been telling myself that he was a decent kid who’d gotten sucked up by the experiment of his own rhetoric — that he enjoyed the attention more than the ideas, themselves. But this was CPAC. This was hand-held iPhone stuff. He wasn’t being hijacked by the liberal media. The rest of the room was audibly uncomfortable with the level of insensitivity.

His profile in the national media continued to grow, and by the middle of the semester, he was the most hated man on campus. There were rumors that, to intercept black men from committing crimes against white women, the WSU would lead nighttime patrols on campus. There were rumors that they were training in mixed martial arts, and that they were networking with racist groups across the country. And yet, in class, he continued to be guileless. Outside of an occasional raised eyebrow, I couldn’t even tell if my other students knew who he was.

One day, he came in a half-hour after class had started, and then stuck around to apologize.

“Sorry I was late,” he told me. “I was dealing with the police.”

“The police?” I said.

“I might not be in class on Thursday. I got my first death threat.” He lifted his computer to show me his Facebook wall.

“Usually, they just call me a motherfucker or tell me to suck a dick,” he said. “But this one says they’re going to kill me on Thursday.”

“That’s terrible,” I said. “What are the police doing?”

“They’re not doing anything.”

“You shouldn’t have to deal with that,” I said, while at the same time knowing that — had he not been in my class, had I not seen him furrowing his brow over Carver or O’Connor, asking serious questions about characterization and voice — a more reprehensible me might have muttered he deserved it.

He stood with his hands clutched in front of his waist, looking down at his chest, very much like a frightened child.

“It’s been getting worse for you?” I asked.

“These interviews keep getting it wrong. They take out all the good stuff I say.”

“It’s a huge price to pay for this kind of celebrity.”

“I guess I have to double down,” he said. “I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.”

This was my moment. I thought maybe I could change something. There he was, after class, a scared kid … and me, in loco parentis. But I wasn’t sure what to say.

“Or,” I tried, “you can just go silent.”

He thought about that. “But then they just write whatever they want.”

“For now,” I said, “and it might get worse before it gets better. But if you don’t feed it, it will eventually starve.”

“That’s interesting,” he said, looking me in the eye. “I might try that.”

Maybe I’d gotten through; maybe I’d made a connection. And what was more, at a university where I felt politics were often treated with apathy, new and myriad connections were being made. A few professors had organized a teach-in about racism on campus; the president of the university was forced to comment on policies of inclusion, and students were watching the news, staging protests and talking about it. At a majority white school on the edge of a majority black city, I’d once sat through a presentation that bemoaned the fears that “suburban people” harbored for “urban people,” keeping them off of public transit. At least now the issue was becoming black and white.

The next emails came on May 2.

On May 1 — May Day — there had been Workers of the World-type protests in D.C. The emails in my inbox had subject lines like, “At it again,” and “Is this what it’s like in class?” They linked to videos of the White Student Union standing in a line across a street, calmly leaning Confederate flags (more appropriately sized for poles) against their shoulders, as a wave of bearded and backpacked anarchists approached them, flanked them, and began to call them “fuckers” and “racist pigs.”

They chanted, “Nazi scum, your time will come,” told them to “get in the fucking ground where you belong,” and held extended middle fingers fractions of inches away from their faces. There was my student, unflinching, chewing a piece of gum, occasionally asking someone to stop grabbing at his flag. In other videos, he posed measured questions about affirmative action to his screaming counterparts. It was only after someone managed to rip his flag from his hands that he lunged forward, was caught up in a shoving match, and was lost in a swarm of police. Later, I read that bags of urine had been thrown at him.

I guess that for someone accustomed to an all-in brand of righteousness, my suggestion of just shutting up had lacked a certain credibility. What kind of “connection” had I really made? I’d told him to keep his opinions to himself. Was I comfortable with that advice, even when giving it to someone who had advocated for a whites-only state?

“I know,” he’d said to me earlier in the semester, “you probably don’t agree with my politics, because no professors do, but you’re one of the only ones who treats me like a human.”

I’d wanted to receive it as a compliment, but does receiving a compliment always mean letting down your guard?

In a way, I was getting my own education in human contradiction. As much as I railed against it in my students’ stories, I’d been acting no differently in my attempts to oversimplify — to fit him most easily into a prefabricated slot in my mind. I had not wanted to acknowledge his complexity, let alone adjust my teaching style to it. Was he the manipulative leader of a dangerous hate group? Or a college kid experimenting with the power of his voice? Of course, he could be both, and he could be many other things to which spending two and a half hours a week with him had granted me no access.

It was no wonder he’d become frustrated trying to exist in media sound bites. Who among us can keep a message on fire in 30-second bursts — for good or bad — before having to lie down in the straw, exhausted, demoralized or forgotten?
On one of the last days of the semester I saw him in the hall, hours before we were due to meet for class. He was playing with his phone.

“Hi,” I said, catching him off guard. He looked up and said hello as though he had no idea who I was. But after class, later that day, he stayed again. “Professor,” he said, “I just want to really thank you for saying hello to me today.”

“Yeah?” I said.

“This morning, a girl spit on me. When you said hello, it really turned my day around.”

“I’m sorry,” I said to him. “You shouldn’t have to go through that.”

What should he have to go through? I still had no idea.

Ben Warner lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. He teaches college writing.MORE BEN WARNER.