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Charlottesville, Racism, and 21st Century Chaos

Protesters+around+the+statue+of+Thomas+Jefferson+on+the+Virginia+campus
Protesters around the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Virginia campus

Protesters around the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Virginia campus

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez

Protesters around the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Virginia campus

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The town of Charlottesville is home to a statue of Robert E. Lee on a horse. On April 14, 2017, the city council decided to take down the statue. Before this decision was made, there was a protest called “Unite the Right Rally” that took place on August 12, 2017. This rally was held by right-wing extremists protesting the statue’s removal. Along with those right-wing extremists, there were also anti-fascist protesters. Unfortunately, conflict is a given when those two groups mix.

At rallies and protests, we  now expect violence, especially when two groups from opposite sides of the spectrum meet. But there is no way to mentally or physically prepare for what happened to 32 year-old Heather Heyer and at least 19 others listed as injured. James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist, drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring others on August 12th.

Ryan M. Kelly
Protester being hit by car.

This horrific event was caught on video and is available on many prominent news sites. This event exemplifies that racial conflict, which is often portrayed as far-off history, is present and evident with people being hit by a car. While this was only a few states away, you do not even have to drive up to Virginia to see racism. You don’t even have to drive up the road. It is at  schools, malls, stores, and honestly, anywhere you go. It may not be as obvious as people dying or getting injured, but if you really take a minute and listen to what some people say, you will come to a realization. A realization that racism is not just something that occurred years ago with slavery and segregation, but it’s in your classrooms, at sporting events, and on social media. Racism is lurking everywhere.

In regards to the Charlottesville incident, President Trump said, “Both sides are to blame.” Trump held a press conference and said that not everyone there was a white supremacist and that some were just protesting the taking down of the statue.   Trump has a point about the violence. No matter what someone’s beliefs are and how different they are from your own, violence solves nothing. At the same time, people feel like Trump should be condemning the white supremacists, and feel that he is being vague with his statement. “Is it George Washington next week? And Thomas Jefferson the week after?” President Trump asked this because George Washington owned slaves. Are we going to take down his statues and end his legacy?

Robert E. Lee is a name that most people are familiar with. He was an accomplished general in the Civil War and a war hero for the South. He led many men into battle and is an important part of the South’s history. On the other hand, what did this general fight for? He fought for the South and to try to keep slavery alive. Sadly, slavery was a means of living and a way of life. Along with others, Lee did not believe that black people deserved their freedom and refused to look at them as people, but as property. A lot of people’s arguments are, “It is heritage not hate.” However, that heritage was full of people who had hatred for black people. Robert E. Lee is a part of history we should not forget. However, he should not be glorified for the cause he was fighting for.

Chip Somodevilla
Protesters for and against the taking down of the statue meet

In this picture (right) you can see protesters of all different kinds. People coming together for what they believe in is a beautiful thing, as long as it stays peaceful.

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