It Wasn't Just White Men Who Participated In The 'Unite The Right' Rally

White women have always played a role in propping up white supremacy and toxic masculinity.
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On the front lines of Friday night’s “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virgina, at the University of Virginia, angry white men with torches flocked to a statue of slave-owning Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. By Saturday afternoon, members of the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other armed militia groups were rallying full force in the streets adorned with Confederate flags and in full Nazi regalia.

Behind them, smaller in number but no less present, stood white women. 

For those with an understanding of race relations in the United States, this will come as no surprise.

There were active women branches of the Ku Klux Klan. The white woman who accused 14-year-old Emmett Till of crude sexual behavior ― resulting in his gruesome murder in 1955 ― recently admitted she’d lied about what happened. As recently as Nov. 8, 2016, 53 percent of white women who voted, voted to support the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, despite his use of racist and sexist rhetoric.

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A woman member of the KKK takes her baby to a Klan meeting in South Carolina in 1965.
Harry Benson via Getty Images
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Three women attend a Donald Trump rally in Newtown, Pennsylvania, in October 2016.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

While there were undoubtedly more white men at the “Unite the Right” rally, which was organized by neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, it is essential that we recognize that white women have always benefitted from white supremacy, and therefore played an integral role in upholding it.

White supremacy is indeed rooted in racism and misogyny ― but white women have historically enabled racism even if it came with the cost of misogyny, and on Saturday in Charlottesville, many yet again chose to maintain their white privilege by choosing subordination to white men over solidarity with people of color. 

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A white woman (right) walks down the steps with a group of neo-Nazis at the University of Virginia on Aug. 11.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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A white woman (far left) protests with a torch at the University of Virginia with neo-Nazis.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Many on Twitter made flippant comments about the rally, with jokes about the male attendees being harmless beta male-type trolls incarnate.

Those memes, while funny enough, ultimately do a disservice to the seriousness of the deadly violence that white supremacists inflict on real people (at time of publication, one person has been pronounced dead and dozens injured after a car plowed into an anti-racist group at the rally). 

The “Unite The Right” gathering represents so much more than toxic or fragile masculinity. The gathering was a violent act of white supremacy ― and white women have played a significant role in perpetuating it. 

Many on Twitter acknowledged this, with some using the #TrustBlackWomen hashtag as well. 

Ultimately, as long as white conservative women continue to use their white womanhood to bolster racism and inequality, white progressive women have an obligation to condemn it ― and the brutal events in Charlottesville this weekend remind us why. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article indicated that the “Unite the Right” rally took place at the University of Richmond. In fact, it took place at the University of Virginia. 

CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated with additional context on who voted in 2016.

Before You Go

Clashes In Charlottesville
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Neo-Nazis and white supremacists encircle and chant at counter-protesters at the base of a Thomas Jefferson statue on Aug. 11, 2017, after marching with torches through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Virginia. (credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Neo-Nazis and white supremacists take part in the "Unite the Right" rally. (credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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The group marched through the University of Virginia campus with torches. (credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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A man wears Nazi regalia before the "Unite the Right" rally. (credit: Andy Campbell)
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Counter-protesters arrive at the "Unite the Right" rally. (credit: Andy Campbell)
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White supremacists carry Nazi flags on Aug. 12, 2017. (credit: Andy Campbell)
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A white supremacist carries the Confederate flag as he walks past counter-demonstrators. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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White nationalists march through the street. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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A sign on a business in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. (credit: Christopher Mathias)
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Police arrive at the scene of protests after a state of emergency is announced in Charlottesville, Virginia. (credit: Andy Campbell)
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A man is down during a clash between white nationalist protesters and a group of counter-protesters. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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White nationalists and counter-protesters clash. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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A protester receives first-aid during a clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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A man makes a slashing motion across his throat toward counter-protesters as he marches with other white nationalists and neo-Nazis during the "Unite the Right" rally. (credit: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
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A white supremacist stands behind militia members after he scuffled with a counter-demonstrator. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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Virginia State Police use pepper spray as they move in during a clash between white nationalist protesters and counter-protesters. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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Hundreds of white nationalists and neo-Nazis march down East Market Street toward Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally. (credit: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
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A smoke bomb is thrown at a group of counter-protesters. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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Virginia State Troopers stand under a statue of Robert E. Lee. White nationalists descended on Charlottesville to protest the statue's removal. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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Anti-fascist counter-protesters wait outside Lee Park to hurl insults as white nationalists and neo-Nazis are forced out after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering. (credit: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
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A group of counter-protesters rally against white nationalists. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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A man is seen with an injury during a clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters. (credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
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Protesters and counter-protesters after being pepper-sprayed and/or maced. (credit: Christopher Mathias)
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David Duke (C), participates in the white nationalist rally. (credit: Justin Ide / Reuters)
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