Everyone knows about Charlottesville, Virginia. In fact, some may say it has been over-reported on. However, as the country nears the one month anniversary of this traumatic event, it is important that citizens keep it in their rear-view mirrors.
For anyone whose memory is a bit fuzzy, here is a brief summary of the events that quickly transpired:
Friday, August 11, roughly 250 protesters, mostly comprised of young, white males, gathered near the University of Virginia’s Memorial Gymnasium. As they marched through parts of campus, they were by counter protesters, to whom the protesters shouted racial slurs and white supremacy chants. Eventually, it began to get physical, and, eventually the police came.
Saturday, August 12, Emancipation Park, which featured a statue of Robert E. Lee, was filled with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members. They gathered as part of a white nationalist rally, known as Unite the Right. Many carried weapons, and chanted anti-semitic and racial slurs. Counter Protesters, including local religious organizations, anti-fascist movements, and civil rights leaders, met the protesters in the park. Additionally, a group of men dressed in camouflage and carrying semi automatic weapons, who claimed to be a militia welcomed by the Charlottesville Police, arrived. Although the police were stationed around the park, they did not intervene in the morning’s early tiffs.
Around 11 o’clock, more white nationalists came to the park, and some counter protesters made a human chain to prevent the protesters from entering the park. Thus, the serious violence broke out, as chemicals sprayed, balloons filled with ink were thrown, clubs were swung, and physical brawls began. Despite the surge of violence, the police did not intervene. Twenty minutes later, the assembly was declared unlawful. Slowly, the protest broke up, as the white nationalists moved to their second location, McIntire Park. However, by this point, a state of emergency was declared, and the second rally could not continue.
Several hours later, a seemingly unconnected tragedy occurred. A car had reportedly intentionally crashed into a group of counter protesters, injuring nineteen and killing a young woman, Hester Heyer. James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio, the white nationalist and driver who first ran into one crowd then reversed into another, was later charged with second degree murder among other charges.
For the purpose of clarification, a police helicopter did crash later that day, killing two officers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates.
Americans have a tendency to forgive and forget. However, in the case of Charlottesville, forgetting the events that took place could be the worst possible action to take. The Unite the Right rally felt like a snapshot of the 1960’s, but this time, the KKK did not feel the need to hide. Especially as a child of the twenty-first century, the outright hatred demonstrated during the rally was a disturbing sight. It is unclear how the minds of neo-Nazis, Klan members, and white supremacists work. However, it is obvious that the rally was about more than just the Confederate statue; it was about threatening minorities and taking America back to the twentieth century. Now that the dust has settled, it is time for people to peaceably rally together and prevent future violence. Many people feel powerless. However, as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Often times, making a difference as a high school student can be overwhelming. But here are some ideas:
Talk about racism, anti-antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and discrimination against minorities. The more people pretend these issues do not exist, the worse they become.
If people make uncomfortable or discriminatory jokes, do not stay silent. Let them know privately that it was not appropriate
Own up to American history; do not pretend that it does not exist. Furthermore, understand that being proud of heritage differs from defending the antiquated beliefs of your ancestors.
Support organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Friends Service Committee, Southern Poverty Law Center, and so many more.
Sign petitions for causes you believe in. Make your voice peaceably heard!
Talk to your representative. In Ohio, write an email, make a call, or send a letter to the offices of Senators Rob Portman or Sherrod Brown, and let them know that you are uncomfortable with the recent events that have taken place.