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Letter from the Editor: On the five-year anniversary of Aug. 11 and 12, 2017

I hope you find time and space to process this anniversary, however that might look for you.

<p>Anniversaries are important, but they are not the only time we should take care to understand our past.</p>

Anniversaries are important, but they are not the only time we should take care to understand our past.

Dear readers,

Five years ago, the 2017-18 Lawn residents moved into their rooms, eager to begin their final year at the University. Hours later, their front yard was invaded by torch-wielding white supremacists chanting racist, anti-Semetic and homophobic chants. 

Anticipating today, I have found myself thinking frequently about Diane D’Costa, a Jewish woman and Lawn resident. She described her reaction in an interview with The Cavalier Daily.

“They hate every part of my identity. I am exactly what they hate,” she said. “I was scared to go into what felt like a foreign city … I felt like I was still running and fleeing like the stories of my great-grandparents who fled Poland in 1939. It was unreal.”

As I publish this letter in the early morning of Aug. 11, I am sitting amidst stacks of plastic tubs containing the belongings I plan to move onto the Lawn in less than 24 hours — on the anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally itself. I imagine Diane's words will be weighing on my mind. 

I've kept her in my thoughts as we prepared a wide array of content in commemoration of today’s five-year anniversary. From interviews, to columns, to photography and archival research, I hope you are able to take a moment to sit with these pieces. I hope you find time and space to process this anniversary, however that might look for you. Finally, I hope you take a moment to reflect on how far we have come and how far we still have to go. 

In addition to experiencing and processing events like “Unite the Right” as human beings, I am constantly struck by how adeptly student journalists in 2017 made sense of and interpreted these events for our community in real time. I remain in awe of those who risked their personal safety and comfort to cover the events of Aug. 11 and 12 and continued to hold institutions accountable afterwards, and I also know that this paper is not — and has never been — perfect. 

Anniversaries are important, but they are not the only time we should take care to understand our past. If paging through The Cavalier Daily’s archives has taught me anything, it’s that history repeats itself often. 50 years ago, the student body was having the exact same debates over the meaning of Honor. Black students were making demands that remain unmet today. Most evidently, students were rising to the occasion when those who should have protected them failed to do so time and time again.

This, for me, has proven to be the true nature of student self-governance — taking care of one another. Fighting day in and day out in an effort to make this University a better place for those coming after us. This work can feel impossible and exhausting, and its harshest burdens are most often shouldered disproportionately by low income and marginalized students. This was true following the events of Aug. 11 and 12, 2017, and the same is true today. 

I don’t pretend to have the solution to these cycles, but I do know that understanding our history is critical. As a student body, I encourage us all to sit in this moment, process it and commit ourselves to unlearning and relearning. Please — I cannot stress this enough — read. Go on a historical tour offered by the University Guide Service and the History of Enslaved African American Laborers. Do everything you can to understand the history — both the good and the bad — of the CIOs you choose to get involved with. Ask third and fourth years to share their wisdom with you, and write it down for your successors. In these ways, I’m optimistic we can and will make progress.

As always, I can be reached at editor@cavalierdaily.com, where I look forward to answering your questions, comments and concerns. You can expect more communication from me in the coming weeks explaining our strategy and changes this fall. I remain indebted to our readership, and am looking forward to another semester of independent student journalism. 

Sincerely, 

Eva M. Surovell

133rd Editor-in-Chief of The Cavalier Daily

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