Charlottesville One Year Later: A Case for Vigilant Optimism
The following essay was written by Chris Punongbayan, Executive Director of California ChangeLawyers.
I’m afraid to admit that the terrifying images from Charlottesville in 2017 are still etched deeply in my memory. Enraged white men carrying torches in the dark of night. Chants of “You will not replace us.” I will never forget Charlottesville because it reminded me of the ongoing legacy of white supremacy.
That’s why I was so happy to see this year’s Unite the Rally turn into a massive failure. Less than 2 dozen protesters showed up for white supremacy.
And yet, we must remain vigilant. We must remain vigilant because we know better.
We know that the same system that created the conditions in Charlottesville in 2017 is also the same system that disproportionately incarcerated people of color; the same system that permits the killing of Black bodies by law enforcement with impunity; the same system that takes away children away from Brown immigrants. That system is white supremacy. And we must remain vigilant because in 2018, white supremacy has yet to be dismantled.
In California, hate crimes have been increasing for years; in 2017, there were 1,093. And as our demographics continue to change, white supremacy will continue to lash out. By 2040, people who look like me will be the majority. In California, people of color already are.
So in the face of white supremacy, where do we go from here?
I choose to be a vigilant optimist. I won’t ever pretend that mass incarceration and family separations aren’t happening as I write this. But at the same time, I’m working to build a coalition of lawyers, activists, and everyday Americans who embrace our shared humanity; who believe that now is the time to deliver on our promise of justice for all.
Will you join California ChangeLawyers to build a coalition of vigilant optimists?
Forward this message to a colleague or friend, donate to keep families together, and most importantly, promote justice wherever you are — in your own law office, workplace, or school. Together, we will deliver the original American value — justice for all.