No matter how stupid or ugly something may seem, everything eventually comes back in style. Ashton Kutcher brought back trucker hats. Jellies made a brief appearance a few years ago. Fanny packs are a thing now.
And there may be no better proof that history repeats itself than the Unite the Right 2: Nazi Boogaloo retro fashion show scheduled for Washington, D.C., on Sunday, August 12.
There are very few things that loudly burst back onto the scene. Even when a person happens to like something from the past, they are reluctant to do or wear it until, one day, they look around and everyone is wearing Chuck Taylors with high-waisted, ripped, acid-washed jeans.
Or, in this case, doing the Heil Hitler salute while screaming the n-word in a public display of how much they hate immigrants, Muslims and black people.
America has seen this trend before. The nativist movement of the 1830s and 1840’s made people afraid Irish immigrants would take over politics and institute
Sharia Catholic beliefs into law. It happened in the 1880s when the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited Chinese laborers from coming to America and taking jobs from hard-working white people who weren’t going to build railroads anyway.
Black people experienced the comeback again in the late 1910s when whites, angry at “uppity” black World War I veterans initiated 25 anti-black riots in the “Red Summer” of 1919. We witnessed it in the opposition to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.
In the 1920s, ethnonationalism signaled the reemergence of the Ku Kux Klan when the white working class became nervous about the economy and started marching through the streets with banners proclaiming a now-recycled phrase, as evident in a 1921 Congressional hearing
[The Klan] stands for America first [emphasist added]— first in thought, first in affections, and first in the galaxy of nations.
Yet here we are again.
To be clear, last year’s Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va. was not an isolated incident. It was Wypipo fashion week. It was a signal to “real Americans” that they could wear their racism in public because retro, old-school hate was back in style.
And while Trump was the fashion-forward model for the resurgence of this trend, he did not initiate it. White America had always kept their hate in the closet as if it were an old bridesmaid dress they hoped they would have the chance to wear in public again.
And Charlottesville was their chance. It was a national white supremacist prom that sent signals across the country that they could scream the n-word in Whole Foods, call the police at negroes idling in Starbucks and sic the cops on stray black people strolling through their neighborhoods. It was a national coming out that let the racists know: America was finally great…
So as Washington, D.C., prepares for the white supremacist onslaught like the residents of Wakanda waiting for Thanos to arrive, remember that this is just the circular nature of history and hate. America is not becoming more racist. Trump is not turning white people against blacks and immigrants. There isn’t a Nazi uprising.
They have always been here. Nothing has changed but the dates and the resolution of the cameras documenting the fashion show.
Tomorrow, there will inevitably be a news clip of some well-meaning white person with tear-filled eyes, solemnly weeping as he or she explains: “This isn’t the country I know.”
But many of us are all too familiar with it. We have known it for years.
This is America.
This is who she has always been.