It is an ugly fact of American history that our country has been racist since its early days. While we were friendly with some of the Native Americans at first, the greed for expansion soon led us to push them out of their homelands and eventually limit them to reservations, using the excuse that they were savages and inferior to whites. Africans were brought over to become slaves which ingrained the idea that they were somehow inferior to whites. The Declaration said that all men were created equal, but what it really meant at the time was that all white men were created equal.

Change has come slowly, but it has happened.  Slavery was abolished during the Civil War with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. For a short time during Reconstruction, African-Americans had more freedoms and could vote. But racism won out and Jim Crow laws were established, with separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites, separate entrances, separate schools, just to name a few of the restrictions. “Separate but equal” was the law, but the facilities were not equal. It took until the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights Era, for the Jim Crow laws to be erased. Progress was made, but we’re still not there. In fact, we’re starting to backslide. Schools and neighborhoods are becoming segregated again.  Blacks are being incarcerated at a higher rate than whites for committing similar crimes, effectively taking them off the voter rolls. Voter suppression laws, such as certain ID requirements, are designed to discourage the minority vote.

Some of us may have been fooling ourselves into believing that having elected our first African-American president, our racist ways were behind us. Sadly, they are still here. The last election seems to have emboldened the racists in America to spew their hatred openly, to proudly carry their Nazi and Confederate flags. The sight of seeing Nazi flags should send a chill down the spine of every American. While many politicians from both parties have denounced the display of racism and white supremacy at Charlottesville, is it enough when the racists feel they now have a platform?

On Sunday, August 13, the day after the white supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville where one anti-racism protester was killed, two police officers died, and dozens were injured, Carl Spoerer stood with 51 other citizens in solidarity against racism and white supremacy in the small town of Charleston, IL. This hastily organized vigil was one of nearly 400 that took place all across America that day and Carl was there. Americans are speaking out. We’ve had enough of the hatred, racism, and white supremacy that our country has tolerated for so long. Freedom of speech gives everyone the right to rally and protest. It does not give anyone the right to cause harm to others or not to take responsibility for the content of their speech. What happened in Charlottesville was an act of domestic terrorism and should be labeled as such. We must make our voices heard – we will not let this happen to our country. That is why we are standing firm in Charleston. We know where Carl Spoerer stands.  We are proud to have him join us.

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