Why We Should All Be Talking About Charlottesville

by Tausha Cowan in

Charlottesville, Virginia

Population: ~ 46,000

Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson's estate and a number of tourist attractions for historical buffs, beer and wine lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and more. It's a city that's not without its racist past but, similar to Charleston and Savannah, is still worth visiting.

This past weekend, hundreds of people descended on Charlottesville to oppose the removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's statue with the mission to 'preserve history.' And, as many people likely already know by now, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, alt-right groups and others turned up to protest, armed with torches and signs bearing swastikas and hateful rhetoric, while counter-protestors also descended on Charlottesville to push back at their message. Tragically, three people died as a result.

I'm not going to get into further details of everything that's happened or how the president has bolstered rather than condemned these hate groups, or even how there are – disturbingly – more rallies of a similar nature being planned as we speak, but instead I want to talk about why we should all be talking about Charlottesville.

It's not about uplifting some minority group that's historically been ostracized, abused or left behind. It's about hegemony, or in simpler terms, power and dominance.

We know from data gathering and personal experiences that we often communicate and socialize in echo chambers where we are most often preaching to the choir. It's why I have so many articles denouncing the events in Charlottesville and the president's subsequent response in my social media newsfeeds. So, to hear from the other side takes effort and deliberate action. For me, that came in the form of browsing through the alt-right sub-Reddit and conservative news articles.

While I would like to truly try to understand and empathize with those who have opposing views, in this instance, I cannot. I just can't get past the fact that, for white nationalists and supremacists, it's not about uplifting some minority group that's historically been ostracized, abused or left behind. It's about hegemony or, in simpler terms, power and dominance. So when I read follow-up comments from Unite the Right protestors who talk about 'preserving their European culture' rather than being racist or anti-Semitic, I can't help but think of a few expletives with a side of zero empathy. 

The quest for power and dominance is nothing new – it's existed since the beginning of time in many variations and, truthfully, will likely exist for centuries to come. It's why we see history repeat itself time and time again in various ways. That said, I don't think it means acceptance of fate or thinking this is just the way things are but rather how do we stop history from repeating itself and learn from our past? And how do we make equality and acceptance prevail amidst the fear and discrimination?

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

For myself, when I looked this week at the blog post ideas I normally pull from about a favorite destination of mine or the top 10 things to do in X place, I knew I just couldn't bring myself to write about any of that right now when one minute I'm posting travel photos and the next I'm watching on-the-ground videos of events unfolding in Charlottesville. And I realized this is something I cannot be quiet about – I need to say something, and this is a platform to do so. 

I know this is a travel blog and some may say this topic isn't appropriate for this platform, but 1. my talking about politics and current events on here isn't new, and 2. the fact is that what's happening isn't just about politics or something separate from ourselves. It's literally life and — sadly, tragically, literally — death.

So, we need to be talking about Charlottesville. All of us.

Yes, it may make you uncomfortable or nervous or whatever other emotion you want to apply to it but that's why we talk about it, or at the very least educate ourselves about it and engage with those who we previously may have shied away from (insert racist family member or friend who makes racist jokes but is 'just joking'). If we are silent while those with hateful messages get louder, where does that leave us?

This is something I myself am going to make a conscious effort to do more often because I am admittedly guilty of backing off in certain situations, or completely and immediately dismissing someone who doesn't share my views, or even being accommodating to someone who believes what's happening doesn't concern them. 

What will our society, our world, look like when we allow this to continue?

In truth, the actions themselves are not hard — reading, listening, engaging in a dialogue — but so many of us are resistant to doing so in this context, and we need to not be resistant. We need to be talking about Charlottesville and how the president responded so disturbingly and the fact that we have an emboldened part of our population who will only get bolder, more confident and more outspoken about their racist, anti-Semitic, fascist beliefs. And what will our society, our world, look like when we allow this to continue?

I don't know if this post will make any sort of difference or if it will just go into the echo chamber, but I've put it out into the universe and hope that it makes someone pause and think that perhaps reading, listening and engaging in a dialogue is something worth doing.

For those interested, here are some resources and perspectives on the recent events in Charlottesville that are worth checking out (note: if you only click on one link, make it the first one):

Courtesy of Twitter

Courtesy of Twitter

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