Standing up to hate and racism on the anniversary of Charlottesville

Sanjay Suchak

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Charlottesville tragedy — when white supremacists marched through the streets of Charlottesville, causing the deaths of three upstanding Virginians. That day, we saw hate and bigotry on full display right here in our Commonwealth.

We watched and listened to men chanting “Jews will not replace us.” We watched a man plow his car through a peaceful group of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer. And we watched President Trump say that there were “fine people on both sides,” signaling to white supremacists nationwide that their hate and violence are welcome under this administration.

What we saw in Charlottesville reminded us, in a brutal way, that we must stand each and every day against hate wherever we see it.

That’s exactly what the brave counter-protesters like Heather Heyer were doing. She was killed because she was standing up against something that does not belong in America. Her young life was cut short that day, but her fight was not. Her mother, Susan, has become an inspiring activist for civil rights and racial justice. And we, too, are called to play our part, calling out hate when we see it and working to build a community where all are welcome and celebrated.

Heather wasn’t the only one to lose her life that day — Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed in a helicopter crash as they patrolled the events in Charlottesville. They both left behind wives and young children. We remember their sacrifice and honor their devotion to protecting the Commonwealth.

The tragedy in Charlottesville made headlines, but we know that there are many in our own communities who do not feel safe or welcome. Immigrants, minorities, members of the LGBT community, and others continue to face harassment and discrimination. President Trump has validated racists’ and xenophobes’ discrimination and hate directed towards those who don’t look like them, or pray like them, or talk like them. In doing so, the President has made it clear that in his vision for America, there is not a place for everyone.

But the President doesn’t have the final say on who America is. We do.

Racists and bigots feel emboldened when the powerful, like Trump, encourage them. It is up to the good people of Virginia and America to stand up to them — today and every day — to make it clear that hate has no home here. Together we can and we will.