The white supremacist rally that erupted into violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend showcased the absolute worst parts of humanity. The media deemed the men and women who marched in the streets of this sleepy college town and onto the University of Virginia’s campus as the “alternative right.” That’s a label too kind and undeserving.
The hateful individuals promenading with tiki torches and swastika signs while chanting “blood and soil” shouldn’t belong to any political party in the United States. In fact, they should have no place in society, period. They were extremists. They were Nazis. One could even describe the congregation of Klu Klux Klan members and white supremacists as terrorists, because driving a car into a herd of innocent people that resulted in one death is an act of terrorism.
Stop politicizing these fanatics by calling them the Right. They are as dangerous and irrational as Antifa, the extremist group associated with the far Left. These radical groups, or anyone who identifies with them, do not belong in any kind of rational political discourse—for either side.
Another source of heated conversation has been our law enforcement. Frequently, police officers in this country receive criticism for an often-dangerous job that, quite frankly, not many would have the bravery to do. As we witnessed in Charlottesville, it’s not just a question of physical danger; it’s mental as well.
A photo went viral during the protests on Saturday. In the picture, a black police officer is seen standing guard in front of a congregation of men waving Confederate flags and giving Nazi salutes. He understandably appears disappointed, listless even. Yet still this man bravely stood in place and fulfilled his oath to protect and serve the community, even while parts of that same community openly shunned him.
At the time the photo made the rounds, nobody even knew this man’s name. Just like the subject of the photo, its photographer was unidentified at the peak of going viral. It wasn’t until posting the picture myself on social media that the man’s identity was brought to light. His name is Darius Ricco Nash, and that photo was actually taken during a similar protest in July. It had nothing to do with the Charlottesville protest and everything to do with it at the same time.
Not once, but twice, this man had to protect those who hated him. Thousands of Twitter retweets offered him the utmost praise. It was praise that he and thousands of other police officers deserve regularly. But why did it feel too little too late?
Our justice system is far from perfect, but Democrats are the first to label cops as quick-to-pull-the-trigger racists. For all the public scrutiny our law enforcement officers have received over the past year or so, officers of every race risk their lives to keep order and peace. Why did we need a photograph, albeit poignant and impactful, to remind people of that?
When Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem at football games to protest police treatment of black lives, did he ever think about the black lives serving in blue? When Kaepernick wore socks depicting police officers as pigs, did he think about brave men like Nash? As evidenced in that one picture and demonstrated hourly, police officers literally put their lives on the front line, not on the sidelines.
Nash is an American hero for his service, and we should admire his patience to stand his ground in a sea of white supremacists. But it shouldn’t take a photograph for people to realize that. It shouldn’t take the lives of five police officers murdered in Dallas a little more than a year ago for people to understand police are sometimes the only thing holding the seams of this country together.
No amount of punditry can make sense of what happened in Charlottesville. It won’t bring back the life of Heather Heyer, the 32-year old woman run over by a car in the street. It certainly will not erase the violent images displayed around the world from what ordinarily is a relatively safe city.
But let Nash’s image give us all hope. The next time an American wants to generalize and paint all police officers negatively, think about that image of him. Remember that in chaos and fear, police officers like Nash might be the only thing that can unite us. Blue lives do matter, and in Charlottesville we saw one of the many reasons why.