Statement following Charlottesville

Over the course of our nation’s history, there have been crucial moments when each and every citizen and community member must reconcile our national values with our lived realities. We must examine how our everyday actions and ideologies related to freedom, equity, and civility reflect our Constitutional obligations, our moral compasses, and what it means to be Americans.

The events of the past few days in Charlottesville, Virginia, are one of these crucial moments of reckoning for our nation. The staff of the Winter Institute join the many private citizens and public figures who have testified unequivocally to what we’ve seen: a menacing procession of white supremacists and Nazis, a public display of symbols of genocide and fascism, and heinous acts of terrorism. The photos and videos have made us all eyewitnesses to an assault on our nation’s core civil and human rights and the bodies of people who stood up for them.

The events in Charlottesville have made it impossible to deny any longer that there are many people in our country who reject the ideals of liberty and justice in favor of white nationalism and racial hierarchy. These events reinforce that we as a nation have a long way to go before we achieve equity, equality, and freedom for all. We must not tolerate hatred and its lasting impacts of emotional and physical violence. We are a nation that values its people. We are a nation that celebrates individual uniqueness and differing perspectives. We are a nation that stands for freedom for one and all. We understand that in a democracy, when another’s freedom is at risk, we are all at risk.

We must reckon with the underlying white supremacy that has been present throughout our history. We call for each and every person to condemn hatred in all its forms. We encourage working with compassion, through peaceful and civil dialogue among all people. This is not a time for us to rely upon others to step forward. We believe that a strong democracy rests upon securing everyone’s civil and human rights. We believe that each of us must challenge inequity and demand equality for all, ensuring both the physical safety and the rights of those under attack.

As a nation, it is vital that we keep Charlottesville — and communities in every part of the country touched by such hatred — fresh in our collective memory, while also letting the members of those communities shape their future without anchoring them to the past. The purpose of remembrance is not to shame, but to consecrate; not to ostracize, but to understand. Each community’s story is a patch on the American quilt, which is united by the common ideals of freedom, justice, and equality, but much of which has been sewn by hands that have felt bondage and oppression.

We at the Winter Institute join and support the efforts of those in Charlottesville and across the country who are working community by community to pull our nation back from the dangerous precipice where such hatred and violence overwhelm our national values of respect, equality, and compassion. We call on you to join with local and wider community members to take action against violence and inequity today.

Additional resources:

Race Forward: https://www.raceforward.org/

Charlottesville support: https://medium.com/@SaraJBenincasa/what-to-do-about-charlottesville-dfc7d6636d56

The Charlottesville Syllabus: https://medium.com/@UVAGSC/the-charlottesville-syllabus-9e01573419d0

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