The shocking and heartbreaking display of hatred that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday August 12, 2017 triggered a case of déjà vu in me. The clash between the Unite the Right rally and the counter-protest brought me back to November 2016 when I wrote my post, “Love Must Push Back.”
I wrote this post after watching months of disrespect, bullying, misogyny, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia targeted at women, racial minorities, immigrants, veterans, the LGBT community, and disabled persons. “When hate pushes against and looms over some of us, we have the choice to stand together, lock arms, and push back,” I wrote.
Physical violence ensued in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017. Counter-protestor Heather Heyer, a Caucasian 32-year-old paralegal, was killed when James Fields drove a car into a group of counter-protesters. Nineteen other people were injured. Two state troopers, Lt. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who were providing aerial public safety support, died when their helicopter crashed.
The day after the conflict in Charlottesville, an African-American pastor and community leader said that he would have told the citizens of Charlottesville to stay home and pay no attention to the Unite the Right rally, as if none of the deaths would have happened if counter-protesters had stayed home. Blame the victims? This leader believes that reacting to, and engaging with, those who espouse white supremacy gives them more power.
If abolitionists had stayed home and not opposed the institution of slavery, how many more generations of slaves would there have been? If Rosa Parks had kept her mouth shut and continued to sit at the back of the bus, how many more generations would have lived in the segregated South under Jim Crow laws? If Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and civil rights activists had stayed home and not marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, would there have been a Voting Rights Act of 1965?
The citizens of Charlottesville counter-protested on August 12, 2017 to make their own statement: their city is not a city of division and hatred; its citizens stand against white supremacy, prejudice, and bigotry. As Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said to the Nazi marchers at his press conference that evening, “There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”
Standing up to the devaluation of members of our society is the only way to protect what our country has spent decades trying to create – equality of rights and opportunities for all. It comes with risks, as does anything else worth doing, which is why some will choose to stay home. But defending ourselves, defending others, and defending a society that values mutual respect and peaceful co-existence requires us to push back against hatred in the name of love.
©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2017.