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The danger of extremists and racial tensions: 40 years after the Greensboro massacre

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The danger of extremists and racial tensions: 40 years after the Greensboro massacre
Courtesy of Ivan Saul Cutler

The popular adage opposites attract only works with magnets, but not political or social beliefs, because the radicalization of positions at the extremes of an ideology will inevitably lead to violence. A sad reminder of this occurred 40 years ago, when North Carolina wrote with blood and shame one of the most painful and chilling chapters in its history: the Greensboro Massacre.

After the declaration of the Civil Rights Act in and the elimination of the practice of segregation, racial tensions continued to run high in the south of the country. North Carolina was no exception.

White supremacy groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) frequently conducted marches, held public events, and openly promoted their twisted ideas. On the other hand, in the , the Communist Workers’ Party (CWP) arrived in the Greensboro area to organize textile unions, mostly made up of African-American employees.

The level of confrontation between these groups grew when members of the CWP interrupted a film screening organized by the KKK in . Later the trade unionists announced that on they would organize a protest called Death to the Klan.

On that day, the trade unionists made their way through the streets of Greensboro, when they were surrounded by vehicles driven by members of the KKK and the American Nazi Party. Then came the insults and shouting. Some protesters threw stones at the vehicles. In response, the white supremacists got out of their cars, took out shotguns, rifles, and pistols, and fired at the crowd.

Four trade unionists were killed, including Latino Cesar Cauce, and 11 others were injured.

The state attorney prosecuted five KKK members with criminal charges. However, in , a jury composed entirely of Anglo-Saxon members acquitted all the defendants, based on their statements that they killed the protesters in self-defense, so they were released. On , the City Council issued an official statement of regret regarding the incident.

Today racial tensions have surfaced again. The number of hate groups established in North Carolina reached the highest level in the last five years, according to a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In , 24 of these groups operating in North Carolina were identified. By , the number of hate groups rose to 40.

The report notes that these hate groups, which in the state are predominantly white supremacists, are flourishing amid fears of immigration and [the] nation’s shifting demographics, exacerbated by certain irresponsible politicians.

The radicalization of stances only incites violence. Unfortunately, many politicians have exploited these deep racial tensions to get votes, since it is easier to provoke fear and distrust than to offer viable proposals.

During these times of radical positions and an absence of dialogue, it is also your responsibility as a voter to elect authorities, regardless of their political party, who do not base their campaigns on what divides us, but on what unites us as a nation.

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