The white supremacists won. It’s a hard truth, but if we take a step back and examine the situation, we can understand this to be true. Coming into this weekend's rally we can reasonably assume the white supremacists were looking for the following: confrontation, media coverage and opportunity to recruit. It is safe to assume they accomplished all these goals and more.
Our first issue with the counter-protest is the fact that it gave these despicable terrorists the validation of their ideology by addressing them. You can’t reason with someone who, in 2017, still feels they are superior to somebody else because of their skin color. You can, however, refuse to dignify their words and actions with a response. I understand the idea of trying to protect what individuals know, love and consider as home — it’s natural. However, these racist individuals don’t truly identify with our local issues and organized a hateful gathering aimed at increasing the presence of white supremacy groups. They knew they couldn’t stop the statue from being removed, which has already been voted on in a democratic process. However, they still saw it as an opportunity to expand and galvanize their movement. To do this, they sought confrontation. They knew to expect counter-protests. That is what they wanted. They wanted the videos of confrontation in the streets and our community in chaos. By no means do we agree with these opinions, but as citizens, we must allow them to exercise their rights. Confrontation was a key goal of their planned demonstrations, which is why we as responsible citizens should have avoided it at all costs. The white supremacists all knew that the inevitable outcome would be violence.
In May, when the alt-right groups first came to Charlottesville, their appearance was not nearly as successful as the one this past weekend. This is because we did not confront them and the media did not cover the event as they did this past weekend. They failed. This time, they received international notoriety due in part to the sheer number of people who came out to oppose them. This was an ideal opportunity to recruit and they will almost certainly increase their numbers due to the attention they received. We have unwittingly given them an international platform to spread their hatred and we will soon come to regret its negative impact.
Imagine, if on Aug. 12, no one had shown up to confront these despicable individuals. Imagine if we had not given them the slightest bit of attention and had gone on about our daily lives. Imagine if we had seen their irrelevance. Our community wouldn’t have been so shaken if we had only imagined.
By no means do the points in this column downplay the sacrifice of the brave individuals who lost their lives during the “Unite the Right” rally’s counter-protest. We mourn the deaths of Heather Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M Bates. We are thankful for what they stand for and as University students their actions will always be remembered.
Floyd Black and Matt Daluz Soares are third-year College students.