The Importance of Charlottesville


A shrine to Ms. Heather Heyer, a victim of the violence in Charlottesville. Photo: National Education Association.

Violence erupted on the University of Virginia campus from August 11-12 2017 after white supremacists and counter protesters clashed over a “Unite the Right” rally that was held in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. White nationalists, mostly young, white men, wielded lit torches, chanted Nazi chants such as “Blood and Soil” (which is an ideology developed by Robert Darre that ironically champions the original inhabitants of a nation), and used other hateful tactics to inspire fear into the hearts of the peaceful counter-protesters and many Americans. The violence, protests, and lack of full condemnation by the government drew frightening parallels to history that many Americans thought was well behind them.

An image from the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville. Photo by Samuel Corum.

The violent events left one person dead, Heather Heyer, 32, and dozens others injured, after James Alex Fields, Jr., age 20 of Maumee, Ohio and a confirmed White Nationalist, drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters. Fields has been charged with multiple felonies and second degree murder. Heyer’s death has inspired many to take the future of American history into their hands by championing social justice and love and protesting hate and inequality.

The events in Charlottesville are not isolated, but rather represent one event in America’s long history of racially motivated hate and a growing normalization of hate, racism, and fear in this country. America has a long, troubled history with race; America was born out of slavery and genocide and relied (and continues to rely) on these institutions and their repercussions to build themselves into the superpower they are today. It is an American reality that the privilege of some is dependent on the oppression of others. It is impossible to escape this history or its modern repercussions.

Ever since Trump was elected, hate speech and racial intimidation have become more normalized and tolerated in this country. David Duke, famed member of the KKK and former Grand Wizard, said “we are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” which essentially translates to making America completely white and treating other races as biologically lesser. One of the most horrifying parts of Charlottesville is that Trump, who was elected to be the President of all Americans (whether we like it or not), did not explicitly condemn or single out white nationalists, but rather said “many sides were to blame” for the violence. Mia Gates ‘18 said on Trump’s failure to condemn the actions of white supremacists, “I think that Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville added to the outrage toward our President who continues to fail to condemn those who are perpetuating hate in our country.” By failing to condemn the actions of white supremacists, Trump is allowing the normalization of and perpetuation of  hate culture, violence, and racism in this country.  

Now more than ever, it is important to take a strong stance, address history and its repercussions, and unite against inequality and hate. It is important to remember that Charlottesville is not an isolated incident, but rather one event in a long history of oppression and fear.

A shrine to Ms. Heather Heyer, a victim of the violence in Charlottesville. Photo: National Education Association.