Opinion: What we can learn from Charlottesville

Ella Mulligan '19, Copy Editor

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The entire nation was sent into turmoil over the neo-Nazi/white supremacist rally that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia this August.  When the “Unite the Right” rally began on August 11, many people fully expected for the rally to turn violent towards the KKK’s usual victims of the African American community, but were surprised when the majority of violence was directed at those of Jewish descent.  The neo-Nazi supporters surrounding the Robert E. Lee statue on the University of Virginia’s campus originally seemed to be expressing racist sentiments, crying out their dislike for the African American members of their communities.That perspective quickly changed after the chanting of “Blood and Soil” began to ring in the ears of those observing this terrifying rally.

As the Unite the Right rally continued over the next couple of days, many violent clashes between neo-Nazis and white supremacists against protesters occurred.  Protesters and their white supremacist counterparts were armed with pepper spray, flame throwers, and homemade riot gear, causing tensions to rise.  Eventually protests became so violent that a white supremacist supporter mowed down protesters loitering in the street with his car, killing one and injuring several more people in the crowd. By then, many people viewing this outstanding display of violence knew that things were getting out of hand, and the murder of an innocent woman only cemented those feelings within people upset with this hateful rally.

Probably the most controversial piece in this whole event is how Donald Trump responded to the issue.  In his first press conference on the matter, President Trump mentioned how he believed blame should be put on both sides for the violence that many believed was started by the white supremacists in Charlottesville.  Trump went on to defend his remark by saying that there was one side that was bad and another side that was extremely violent.  This statement went on to cause outrage among many citizens of Charlottesville and the rest of the nation.  Many other Republican officials immediately spoke out against Trump, saying that assigning 50% of the blame for the violence on white supremacists would be considered a “win” for the racist and anti-Semitic groups.  As someone who was elected president of a very diverse country, Trump has not been doing the best job of standing up for those outside of the straight white community, and many desire a change in his actions.  

While what occurred in Charlottesville could be defended as freedom of speech, and should be respected as a first amendment right, I think that we should all be reminded of the connotations that come with accepting bigotry in our country.  Remembering what happened during events such as the Holocaust and how the activities of the Klu Klux Klan have affected our community at home are extremely important in realizing what we must do in the case of a similar rally occurring in our home state.  If we let the intolerance and hatred of these people continue, we are allowing them to think that their persecution and prejudice is acceptable in our country, and we must never allow something so terrible to occur.  What happened in Charlottesville is a direct reflection of how divided our country is at the moment and shows just how uncertain the possibility of ever feeling united again is.

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