I speak from a perspective that will not serve complete justice, if any. But any productive rhetoric to the conversation should be welcome.
Today I speak for Charlottesville. To the people affected by the events transpiring in its quiet town. To the history being made that counteracts that of its founders to establish a unified country.
I visited Charlottesville last month. At that time, I shortly attended a KKK rally (as an outside observer supporting the counter-protest, of course) in which the counter-protesters greatly outweighed the white supremacists waving the Confederate flag to keep a Robert E. Lee statue in place. Police officers surrounded the perimeter of the crowd. A helicopter hovered overhead. But no violence occurred. Noise and signs and numbers spoke loudest. Everyone made their statement and left.
Never did I imagine events progressing from there. That even more white nationalists and supremacists would come to the college town for more protesting. That those disagreeing with these groups’ ideologies would again counter, but with more force. That everything would lose any sense of order and control. A conflict progressing into injury and death. An act of domestic terrorism. Very deliberately driving a car into a crowd of innocent people.
What really drove me to immediately publishing this was the president’s words regarding the incident. He made no specific statements to condemn white nationalism and all that it stands for. He did not condemn the violence in Charlottesville erupting into a death as terrorism. He did not rebuke these groups’ support for him as a world leader. He could have recycled his abruptly short speech for anything. He even mentioned more details about the economy than he did hate, protests, or white supremacy. What exactly is “an egregious act of violence” that should be stopped? We should not have to dissect a leader’s vague words to understand where he or she actually stands on a tumultuous issue.
I do not condone any hate. I do not myself have any hate. But I will never have any respect for the man who is Commander in Chief. Those who remain silent in the face of oppression and violence condone it. As with the protests, the actions speak much louder than any words. He even said little on his infamous Twitter. This avoidance of strong leadership and blatant condemnation are weak excuses for suppressing further divisions among the population and encouraging the values this country stands on. What can occur in the country that the president might actually condemn? How much devastation must occur before he calls out those who are causing it?
We are a patchwork nation. We would not exist without the many ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and cultures represented. What claims itself to be “more American” and wanting to “preserve America” as a country attacking and banning diversity could not be more un-American. It’s homegrown Nazism.
Yes, we have our rights and liberties. We can vote, speak, gather, and live freely as American citizens. But we must practice those freedoms through just means, through love, through acceptance. Freedom loses its potency when used for injustice and bigotry.
We cannot deny that these mentalities of white versus diversity are ingrained in our history, as is the Robert E. Lee statue that once stood in Charlottesville. Our ancestors have overcome slavery and segregation, and today we still fight against discrimination, a continuous battle that will probably never reach a stable solution as long as hatred persists.
At one time, the legal devices that we implemented to make the American people feel “safe” were fueled by fear and paranoia. Fearing Native Americans, fearing African Americans, fearing Asians, fearing Muslims, fearing Catholics, fearing Communists. Establishing groups like the Ku Klux Klan came from a need for safety against the unknown that is diversity. So if we want to put “America first,” what does that truly mean? What America are we trying to create, now and for the future?
Hatred clouds our judgment. Hatred encourages us to divide lines in the sand, to throw words and weapons at each other, to drive cars into fellow Americans. People. Human beings. We lose any sense of morality and judgment when we allow ignorance to drive our actions.
Inevitably, each side of the divide has been hateful of each other. When we see things like white supremacy trod in our vicinity, we use loud methods to counter it and make a statement. But too easily we lose sight of being productive. We make our divisions wider. We allow anger to guide us. Anger and hatred will never accomplish anything. They will not solve these deeply rooted issues of prejudice.
Us and them. Right and left. Black and white. White nationalists and neo-Nazis have driven a hateful effort to instill violence, to provoke people who will not be silenced, to spit at societal progress in acceptance and representation. What we need now more than ever is a moment to remember who we are and who we want to be. Instead of anger, we need a more peaceful approach.
Charlottesville is just one issue of many based on race-related hate. Now is the opportune time to remind ourselves that we will not stand for hate. We will not allow violent groups of people to threaten others’ lives and commit terrorism. We will not be defined by anger and fear. We will unite on our common goals of peace and justice. We will stay strong despite leaders who will not stand up and act for our values. We will do more, do better, do good.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie