Peter Cvjetanovic says his life is "spiraling out of control" since the photograph of him screaming and wielding a torch at the Charlottesville White Nationalist Rally has gone viral. Cvjetanovic was one of multiple neo-Nazis exposed by the twitter handle @YesYoureARacist, after requesting folks who “recognize any of the Nazis marching in Charlottesville, send me their names and I’ll make them famous.”
Cvjetanovic was quickly identified as a political science student from the University of Nevada, Reno — who is now feeling personally victimized for being cast in the open as the neo-Nazi he is.
However, the University of Nevada, Reno student will return to school in a couple weeks for the fall semester, with his on-campus job still waiting for him. Though there are multiple petitions calling for his expulsion, the University has its hands tied in terms of expelling or firing him because it would infringe upon his first amendment right to say horrible, evil things.
While some of the other neo-Nazis are losing their jobs and facing consequences for their abhorrent views, Cvjetanovic is protected by constitutional law because both his education and job fall under the public sector.
You can’t “reject the ideology” but still accept the person who espouses it with open arms.
So I’m not upset that University President Marc Johnson did not take action, but rather that he did not wield his words in a way that put the school, my alma mater, firmly on the right side of history. Throughout his two statements following the news of Cvjetanovic’s involvement in Charlottesville, he fails to condemn the student (only the “movement”), painting a black and white issue with a putrid shade of gray.
I cringed as I read his statement which ended with a horrifically tonedeaf paragraph about the importance of keeping things civil (even when dealing with Nazis). The tragedy that occurred this weekend in Virginia is an important reminder that we must recognize the perspectives of all individuals, it read. To which every fiber of my being bristled, nope.
You might also like: Will My Interracial Relationship Survive Charlottesville?
There is a time to be prudent and fair to “many sides” of an issue, but dealing with Nazis is not that time. We can make an exception about hearing everyone’s viewpoint when it comes to white nationalists. We came to a consensus about it a long time ago. There was a whole world war about it. We can and absolutely should draw that line in the sand.
Because President Johnson’s statement is exactly the sort of middle ground response that white people absolutely should not be peddling in the face of white supremacy. It’s placing Nazis in the same category as the people they wish were eradicated from the earth. It’s saying that a Nazi’s hate is equivalent to the hate he receives back for being a goddamn Nazi. This is not the place to attempt to draw parallels. Not now. Not ever.
You can’t “reject the ideology” but still accept the person who espouses it with open arms. You cannot make a school campus a “safe and welcoming space” for both neo-Nazis and those they wish to exterminate. We cannot all just get along or agree to disagree, because taking the middle ground at a time like this is taking the side of the oppressor.
As white people, we need to do better.
This is not a time to call for understanding. It is a time for everyone — especially white people — to denounce Nazis like Cvjetanovic, keeping our words sharp and clear. Johnson’s message left room for interpretation, which is all but a warm welcome home for our repugnant local Nazi.