LICHTENSTEIN: A call to action for U.Va.

The U.Va. community must take action and remain vigilant to eradicate white supremacy

candlelightopinionlichtenstein

The University community came together for a candlelight vigil to oppose white supremacy and honor the memory of Heather Heyer. 

Kate Bellows | Cavalier Daily

When the torchlit faces of white supremacists and neo-Nazis converged on the Rotunda last Friday night chanting “you will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us,” they desecrated a University committed to pluralism and mutual respect. When they rallied in Emancipation Park, they violated a proudly diverse community. By the evening of last Saturday, their hate had caused destruction and anguish. The events of last weekend must serve as a call to action — our communal response must be one of unity against white supremacy and Neo-Nazism through action and vigilance.

State and municipal governments around the country have responded differently in the aftermath of last weekend. The 15-member Baltimore City Council, for example, voted unanimously on Aug. 14 to remove and destroy statues recognizing Confederate leaders. Leaders in several other states have also called for removal of Confederate monuments following the events of last weekend. These responses illustrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the cause of the violence in Charlottesville. While the “Unite the Right” rally was superficially organized to protest the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, white supremacists and neo-Nazis traveled to Charlottesville primarily because they saw an opportunity to spread their message of hate. Institutions must realize that removing Confederate statues will only serve to further the insidious mission of white supremacists. Instead, organizations and governments should focus on uniting their communities against such hate. 

We have to make a concerted, daily effort to come together against neo-Nazism and white supremacy. First, we should defend the institutions which stand for human rights — such as the University — which protects us by teaching us to recognize and denounce flawed philosophies such as the ones spewed last weekend. Second, we should defend the publications which inform us. Investigative journalists and reputable news outlets strive to transmit facts and reason, and therefore are paramount to our ability to eradicate hate from our community. Third, we should donate to the charities that fight for human rights, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has fought hate groups since its inception. Finally, we have to be vigilant. We must be conscious of our surroundings, look for hate speech disguised as political discourse, and help those around us to realize that they have the opportunity to combat a hate that has caused unquantifiable pain. 

Our commitment to act neither implies nor condones violence. When we act violently, we contradict our own goal of unity against hatred; violence would only further the campaigns of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Through acts of nonviolence, we have the opportunity to accomplish our goal. The events of last weekend gained international attention, which these groups can use to recruit and spread their venomous ideologies; they perceive this recognition as legitimization of their cause. While ignoring these despicable views and the people who spew them may have been effective in the past, such a response will not help rid our community of their toxic beliefs.

Our responsibility to act stands independently from political leanings — white supremacy and neo-Nazism are antithetical to basic human morality. Charlottesville and the University community have been deeply hurt by the hate which characterizes these ideologies. We now have the opportunity to stand in opposition to their destructive ideologies. While we mourn the horrific deaths of Heather Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, we must work to decry those who seek to destroy the pluralistic and loving society we have built together. 

Jake Lichtenstein was a member of the The Cavalier Daily’s third Editorial Board. He may be reached at j.lichtenstein@cavalierdaily.com

related stories