YOWELL: Students possess the power to make this community safe

The hatred in Charlottesville should not be tolerated by students, faculty or other members of the community

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With the most recent vandalism of Beta Bridge, members of the University community are reminded once again that hatred still exists among us.

Jake Gold | Cavalier Daily

Charlottesville possesses an astounding amount of history. From the historic Downtown Mall to the various buildings around the University, members of the community have a glimpse into the past with every turn. However, this history is not always inviting. In fact, it is usually the opposite, as we are often times reminded of this history and its presence in our lives in the worst ways possible. 

With the most recent vandalism of Beta Bridge, members of the University community are reminded once again that hatred still exists among us, often times frighteningly too close for comfort. Coupled with the memories from the Unite the Right rally, we are further shown how important it is to acknowledge the wrongdoings frequently overlooked in our own past. Therefore, it is crucial to bring awareness to these issues, which is exactly what the University is doing with its installation of a memorial to the enslaved laborers who built these Grounds. 

By recognizing the University’s own historical imperfections, it becomes possible to acknowledge how far we still have to go in the fight for equality and acceptance both in and outside this community. And while some students at the University have a better understanding of this than most, as past events in Charlottesville have taught us, there is still a lot we have to learn. 

However, instead of students simply looking at this as yet another reminder of the hatred around us, they should use it as a call to action. Students at the University possess both the historical knowledge and present power to make the changes needed in this community in order to truly make it a welcoming and safe environment for all. 

From the tragic occurrences of August 2017 to the continuous resurfacing of hatred at our own University, the time to simply talk about it is long past, and it is time for students to demand the change they deserve. Since University students making up a sizable portion of Charlottesville’s inhabitants, they clearly have the potential to facilitate change. In other words, students are in promising positions of power that, with sufficient drive, could wreak havoc on the hatred brewing within our community. Additionally, it is equally important for students to approach this problem with unapologetic devotion because as a community, we should be fed up. Students have been exposed to hatred and the violence that often accompanies it for far too long. 

Of course, this is much easier said than done, as hatred has existed in this community far  longer than we have. Yet, history shows us that students often possess more power than they realize. This can be seen when four college freshman sat at a whites-only lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., evoking an uproar of civil activism from fellow students. It is again apparent in Malala Yousafzi, a teenage girl tackling educational equality after tragedy struck her own life, and in America, where thousands of students walked out of schools in solidarity, protesting gun violence in our country. Each of these students have not only changed the world around them, but they have also inspired others to do so as well. Thus, much as these infamous student activists have taken it upon themselves to tackle the hatred seen in this world, it is the responsibility of University students to be the never-ceasing force of change this community needs to see.

Charlottesville is our home, and the University is our school — and it is time that both of these places be forced to acknowledge their wrongdoings and make the changes needed to welcome each and every one of the diverse students, faculty and tourists looking to join the history of this community. Therefore, the students of the University community have a unique and humble place in this fight for equality and justice. It is time for students to make change, demand to be heard and relentlessly show the community that hatred does not have a place here. It is time for students to stand up and hold those spreading hatred in our community accountable for their actions. Whether we do this by attending city council meetings, protesting in the streets, giving speeches or mailing letters to our elected officials or sitting-in until we’re heard, it must start with us. This is our home, and this is our fight.

Hailey Yowell is the Senior Associate Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at h.yowell@cavalierdaily.com.

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