When I was growing up in Sicily Island in the 1950s and 1960s, I often heard the word “communist” hurled at people who favored progress for African Americans.

Those of my generation may recall the roadside billboards portraying Martin Luther King allegedly “in a Communist Training School.” This charge of communism had the effect of denigrating the struggle for civil rights. If the movement was communist, then it had to be rejected, without further discussion.

Now the preferred term, among some, for people who are protesting against racism, police brutality, and the killing of George Floyd at the knee of the Minneapolis police is “modern-day fascists.”

The column entitled “Presentism at its Worst” by Sam Hanna Jr. (published in Hanna Newspapers, the Concordia Sentinel, The Ouachita Citizen and The Franklin Sun the week of June 22) exemplifies this practice. And in his speeches over the Fourth of July weekend, President Trump joined the trend by decrying “far-left fascism.” Despite the change in word choice, from “communist” 60 years ago to “fascist” today, the impact is the same: to undermine the movement for racial equality.

Fascism and communism have never described the same thing. On the contrary, these extreme ideologies have been sworn enemies, as evidenced by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. That’s why it is jarring to hear the term “fascist” used, or rather misused, to describe the present-day protests.

Fascism was, and is, the outgrowth of far-right nationalism—a militaristic, anti-egalitarian “law and order” movement that represses racial/ethnic minorities (for example, Nazi persecution of Jews).

At the least, the misappropriation of this label fails to provide any insight into the current multi-racial protests seeking to expand justice and equality. Instead of deploying epithets, let us work together to realize the great American values of “liberty and justice for all.” Now that would be real progress.

Jess Gilbert

New Orleans and Sicily Island

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