Charlottesville is a city where the University of Virginia, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson, proudly stands. It is one of the most prestigious Public Universities in the country. It also has a history of slavery and discrimination. I remember when I was in high school, I participated in a program at the University of Virginia and one of the tour guides told a story of how at the University of Virginia there is prestigious housing zone, called The Lawn, which is reserved for high-achieving students. It is one of the oldest parts of the University and in the antebellum days, slaves were not permitted to be brought to the University, but people with slaves would sneak them in and hide them in these houses. When an African-American student, who lived on The Lawn, wanted to run for student government, this student had racial slurs written on their housing complex. Thomas Jefferson himself owned slaves and fathered mixed-race children with enslaved Sally Hemmings.
The hatred that was seen during the white supremacist march near Charlottesville is not new. It has a long legacy and decades of racist policies have led up to this tension. This is not a situation of free speech, this is just an expression of hatred and a violation of other people’s civil rights. Trump spoke out and claimed to condemn the violence, but the reality is, his words, his calls for a “Muslim ban,” his birtherism, his flirtation with white supremacy is what flamed the fires of this type of white supremacy in the first place. So, Trump is a contributor to this hatred.
The media appears to be hypocritical. I have not heard any of these white supremacist marchers called thugs, even though, a white supremacist allegedly ran over a peaceful counter protestor. I have not heard anyone asking, “where the parents are,” of these white supremacist protestors. I did not see the same display of force against these white supremacist protestors as was seen in Ferguson, where BLM protestors were pepper-sprayed. I have not seen these white supremacists labeled as terrorists. Fox News refers to this as a white supremacist rally, but called Baltimore a riot. I guess it’s only people of color who get that kind of treatment.
The one positive thing that came out of this was seeing counter protestors of all colors, white, black, and brown who showed up to take a stand against this. If any of you believe that all white people are evil, you are mistaken because it took courage to stand up against a violent group of white supremacists and do the right thing. There were interfaith, multiracial clergy members who came together, even faced violence themselves, to denounce this and bring a message of peace and love.
All this stems from ignorance. The Public-School system has not done an adequate job in teaching about institutional inequality (the Public-school system itself is an institution of inequality) and we don’t teach children about having empathy for other people. We don’t have a required racial justice curriculum for teachers or students and we do not promote peace and conflict resolutions, we promote violence. There are people who study peace and conflict resolution as a profession and they are trained in how to deal with these situations, why don’t we use them as a resource ever?
Added: This is a tragedy and I mourn for Heather, a white woman who stood against prejudice and became a victim of white supremacy in Charlottesville. I mourn for Susie Jackson and the 8 other victims of Charleston shooting back in 2015 and I mourn for all the nameless Black, Brown, White and people of all colors who have been killed and murdered by white supremacy and hatred in general. I also mourn for all those who have been disenfranchised and harmed by the system of white supremacy itself.