How to Fight Racism and Intolerance–A UVA Example
Today, Members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in North Carolina, plan to hold a rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, 8 July. The stated purpose of their rally is to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park. Many university community members have come together to repudiate the racism and hate this group espouses, planning a variety of events at the university and in Charlottesville.
The University of Virginia Student Council has worked throughout the summer to plan activity and provide helpful information. They shared the following in an email sent to the University student community yesterday.
Dear University Community,
We hope you are finding ample opportunities to both relax and explore exciting opportunities this summer. As you may be aware, many students return to Grounds after the first major summer session to reconnect with friends in a time we affectionately call “Midsummers.” While this is a great opportunity for many of us to catch up, we would like to remind students to exercise caution while partaking in the weekend’s activities. If you are planning to attend, be sure to brush up on student safety resources provided on the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS) website and the Gordie Center website; drink plenty of water to stay hydrated in the July heat; and make a plan with friends to get home safely. Safe Ride will operate 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. starting both Friday and Saturday evenings.
We also write to address the plans of a North Carolina “splinter group” of the Ku Klux Klan to assemble in downtown Charlottesville tomorrow afternoon, July 8. The oldest hate group in the United States has intimidated, threatened, and inflicted violence in its most extreme forms upon a great many Americans, particularly targeting communities of color. Their impending presence in our community may have you feeling angry, confused, or fearful. We empathize with you, and are here to walk alongside you to protect the values of peace and inclusion that make UVA a safe place to learn and flourish. Members of this hate group will seek out and capitalize on any sign of engagement from you they can provoke. To give their hateful rhetoric a platform and “take the bait” will only serve to further their derisive message. They have a long history of twisting peaceful protest to suit their divisive message. Student Council firmly echoes the recommendation that President Sullivan made in her statement on June 27 “to avoid the rally and avoid confrontation on July 8.” If you do feel compelled to participate in counter-protest events, we urge you to seek out a larger Charlottesville-based group with an organized counter-protest plan that you will be able to join. If you experience verbal threats or physical assaults at any point in time, immediately contact a nearby police officer or call 911. The Dean on Call also is available to respond to student crisis situations 24/7. Your safety and well-being come first. To “affirm and uphold the values of equality on our Grounds,” as the Black Student Alliance has invited students to pledge, we have outlined a number of peaceful community events taking place tomorrow:
- The City of Charlottesville’s “Unity Day“: Unity Day will begin with programming at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center at 10 a.m.; continue at IX Art Park for a community potluck beginning at 11:30 a.m.; and conclude with a free Unity Day Concert at the Sprint Pavilion on the downtown mall beginning at 2 p.m.
- Peaceful Counter Rallies: 2 to 5 p.m. at Jack Jouett Middle School led by Charlottesville NAACP.
- Multicultural Student Center: This space in Newcomb will be open for students to gather throughout the day.
- Mellow Mushroom Pizza at 1515: Come get a free slice starting at 4:30 p.m.
Our University maintains an undeniable duty to defend the values of equity and inclusion. By standing beside our Charlottesville neighbors in celebration of difference as our excellence and strength, we will send a collective message far more powerful than that of any group seeking to bring hate to our community. Should you be in Charlottesville this weekend, we hope you enjoy reconnecting with friends and look forward to seeing you on Grounds in August.
Sarah Kenny, President Student Council