For 14 years our family called Charlottesville home. Three of our children were born there. And a fourth was welcomed into our family wrapped in the kindness, encouragement, and love of our Charlottesville community.
We love this place where we hiked the Blue Ridge, picked apples, built snow forts, and enjoyed deep friendships. Our kids rambled the hills around our home, climbed Big Rock, and had countless adventures across the creek in the beauty of the Roxaboxen town they created. We love this place.
To see the Grounds of UVA, and the parks and streets of Charlottesville become avenues of hatred, violence, and death hurt my heart and angered my soul.
This is not our Charlottesville.
And it’s not. Charlottesville is the birthplace of presidents and explorers. But the way that these flawed men have been memorialized has been the source of controversy for years.
Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea. Sacagawea was a rockstar. And yet, in this statue, she’s cowering beneath the explorers. In 2009, a plaque was added to the statue noting her contribution to the expedition.
Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Jefferson, who wrote, “All men are created equal,” had slaves. And one of these slaves was Sally Hemings, who gave birth to six of Jefferson’s children. Monticello still stands, but both Mulberry Row, Monticello’s slave quarters, and Sally’s room is being restored. The reality of slavery is being addressed with tours focusing entirely on the Hemings family and the experience of enslaved people are being conducted.
And then there was the decision to take down the statue memorializing Robert E. Lee and rename Lee Park and Jackson Park to Justice Park and Emancipation park. Whether or not this was a good decision, I don’t know. But what I do know is that white nationalist, Jason Kessler, was there and made it clear that he already had plans for August 12th.
Charlottesville is a town like any other, except, in my opinion, a bit more beautiful than most. 😉 There are issues and problems, and dissenting opinions. And yet, up to now, the people of Charlottesville have kept town business town business.
But Jason Kessler, a Charlottesville resident, saw this as a prime opportunity to unite others who share his views. Coming out of the town meeting in which the decision was made to take down the Lee statue, he announced his plans for a demonstration and a self-described white supremacist took up the cause. “The fascists must not have the streets. We call on all anarchist, anti-fascist and anti-authoritarian groups in Appalachia and East South Central North America to converge at Lee Park on August 12th at 9 AM EST, and carry on the active resistance against white supremacy. We intend to win.”
But they didn’t win. Not in Charlottesville.
Was there violence? Yes.
Was there death? Yes.
But there was more. Even before the events of August 12th unfolded …
There was courage.
UVA students stood in a sea of tiki-torch-carrying supremacists holding a sign saying, “VA Students Act Against White Supremacy.”
There was unity.
Christians from multiple denominations gathered to prepare, worship, and pray.
There was comfort.
In the wake of horror of the day, the beauty of humanity was on display as people linked only by tragedy reached out and care.
No, they didn’t win. But they want to. And they have plans to come back to Charlottesville. And they have plans to spread the hate.
In our church today, my husband made it clear. “We stand against racism.”
We stand against racism.
What does this look like? What does is look like for you and me to stand against racism?
Wherever you are, start. And I’m going to speak quite frankly to my white friends now. When you say, “I have a black friend,” that’s great. But having one black friend is one small step. Get into her world. Ask her about profiling, about “the talk,” about the challenges of the white ceiling. And listen. Read books and watch movies about racism and discuss them with friends, black and white, in every sphere of influence. Start.
Be on the lookout for racism. And when you see it stand against it in your schools, churches, workplaces, grocery stores, wherever. It might be a racist joke, or the use of a “black” accent by a white friend, or demands made of the black person in line in front of you at Target. If you’re not sure if something you see is racial injustice, it probably is. But feel free to ask your black friend. She’ll let you know. Stand.
Racism has deep roots in our society. It just does. And it will take tenacity from all of us to dig it out for good. Right now, there’s media attention. But as summer turns to fall, it will fade. But let’s not forget Trayvon Martin, and the Charleston Church Shooting, and Ferguson. Let’s stay the course for more than a few days. Let’s stay the course until racism is truly eradicated. Stay.
On August 12th in Charlottesville, VA, they didn’t win. And they won’t.
Together, let’s stand against racism.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” Ephesians 2:14