Charlottesville, VA: A Symptom, Not the Root


Two and a half months ago, my husband (A) and I were sitting in our car one block from the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA when we saw a group of people walk across the road and into Emancipation Park.  We could tell it was a protest of some kind.  Grabbing our things, we jumped out of the car and ran to see what was happening.  Little did we know the gravity of events that would occur such a short time later in the exact same spot.

I have so many words, thoughts, and feelings about what happened on Saturday, August 13, 2017.  Anger, sadness, disbelief, and incredulity are a few of them.  I have read countless articles, scrolled through Facebook far too much, and engaged in deep conversation about the events with A.

What makes my blood boil is the inconsistency of people.  Numerous first-hand accounts confirm the counter-protesters fought back in self-defense…yet so many choose to believe the contrary.  They condemn violence “on all sides”, as if what happened was equally evil.  Violence is not equal.  In the case of Charlottesville, videos and individuals’ stories line up—the police stood back.  They did not engage like they would have if a Black Lives Matter protest had turned violent.  People did not die at the hands of police like they might if the groups had been filled with black and brown people.  Yet, some still insist that the counter-protesters were the instigators.  Of course, when the nation’s own president takes 48 hours to denounce the racist groups and their violence by name…it makes a bit more sense why so many refuse to condemn them.

People continue to defend Donald Trump, claiming he is not the reason these violent and racist events are occurring with rising frequency…yet statistics show that in the past two years, since he declared his candidacy for president, that racist crimes and actions have risen (here is a report citing incidents since Trump’s election).  That leads to the many who don’t understand the root of this problem (because it’s not DT).  They claim the decisions to take down Confederate monuments is starting these riots, but that is only a symptom—a side effect—of a centuries long problem called racism and white supremacy.  People are taking a stand and saying these monuments do not belong in our town squares and in front of government buildings, places of honor and recognition.  They need to go in a museum, as a relic of the past mistakes the United States made in allowing white people to lord over black people, as masters and murderers.

I have often asked myself how I would have responded to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany.  Then, I wondered if I would have joined the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  Now, I no longer have to wonder: I am part of the movement to the fight against racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, ethnocentrism, and much more.  It is wrong.  There is no place for it if we are going to love each other.

What keeps running through my mind is: if we love others and desire change/equality/etc., we must be willing to sacrifice our preferences, desires, and privileges.  Without sacrifice, our selfishness and pride will prevail, and hatred, violence, and death will continue.  Therefore, if we believe love must win, it means putting ourselves in the shoes of others and thinking about their experiences, their history, and their lives and asking ourselves how ________ will affect them.  It means placing someone else above ourselves…especially when we (white people) are holding the flag of privilege.

Fear Tactics: Say “NO!”

My newsfeed is filled with fake news, skewed statistics, and people looking in the past when there was (perhaps) a lack of protest as an argument against people protesting current issues.  It angers, frustrates, and saddens me.

I am a true believer that with exposure comes a greater capacity to empathize with people in their current situations.  While commiserating with a family member, I expressed, “I wish more people would practice putting themselves in the shoes of others, rather than assuming everyone else wears their shoes.”  It’s true: how often do we judge the plights of others through the lens of our own lives?  It’s not fair because we haven’t walked their journey.

Now, I sit watching executive orders be handed down that are negatively impacting so many.  I’m watching friends and acquaintances look for immigration lawyers because, despite legally being in the United States, they are suddenly concerned for what the future hold.  I’m watching people I love dearly respond with fear to fear-mongering.  I’m listening to officials toss around words like “security” and “safety” without talking about the specifics…more fear tactics.

The biggest issue that few are mentioning (thank you, Jill Stein, for speaking out and sharing this article) is that policies and actions from previous presidents have opened up the flood gates for President Trump to now get his pen hand ready.  We, collectively, forget that our country invaded and attacked (brutally) places where we had no right–killing without care.  Now, people in those countries have to flee…but where do they go?  Maybe if we’d flown fewer drones, not dropped bombs, and not terrorized people half a world a way we wouldn’t be facing the onslaught of HUMANS looking for a place to lay their heads without fear of a bomb falling.

Maybe when you terrorize people for years, they get scared, angry, and want to fight back.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Someone has to stop the cycle–let it be us.