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MEDIA ADVISORY: How a ‘rock-paper-scissors’ game led to Charlottesville
Johns Hopkins historian available to put weekend violence in historical context
Newswise — Johns Hopkins University historian N.D.B. Connolly says last weekend’s white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, has made it clear that “generic solutions” to this county’s racial problem do not work. For too long, he says, discrimination and equality in the United States have operated “like an oversized historical game of paper-rock-scissors.”
“In such a game,” he writes in an opinion piece published by the Washington Post, “throwing the same thing over and over again is never a good idea.”
Liberalism, he says, is the “paper,” that we’ve been throwing for a long while.
The persistence of white supremacy, he says, is our “scissors.”
Connolly says resistance is the “rock.” “Rocks can look like armed self-defense or nonviolent direct-action campaigns,” he says. “They appear, too, as blunt, bald public speech about the hatred arrayed against the dispossessed.”
“No matter its form, rock breaks scissors,” Connolly says. “A half-century ago, nothing less than radical anti-racism could reduce white supremacy to an outlaw religion. Paper could not do that. The contract logic of liberalism, on its own, was not built for that. On matters of racism and discrimination, capitalism can never serve as the great social fix, because in many instances, the very sectors of the economy that have historically been the most profitable in American history — for instance, slavery, real estate — have also been the most discriminatory.”
And yet, he says, despite civil rights won largely by “rocks,” such as the riots following the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the country reverted to “paper.” “We covered and concealed any historically specific grievance with a general promise of “equal opportunity,” ownership, and with law and order,” he says.
And now, he says, in Charlottesville Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan are out with scissors. Paper alone won’t drive them out,” he argues. “We would do well, however, to wise up and start throwing rock — public denunciations of white supremacy, clear anti-racist institution building, and fighting for policies that undo the money made off racism.”
To speak with Connolly, the Herbert Baxter Adams associate professor of history and author of A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida, contact Jill Rosen at 443-997-9906 or firstname.lastname@example.org.