Making #Charlottesville

Before leaving Charlottesville, I took an intentional walk. One of the panels I attended at the Virginia Book Festival featured Media historian and professor Aniko Bodroghkozy. Aniko has written a book that draws parallels between the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the “Unite the Right” movement that led to Heyer’s murder. I bought that book – “Making #Charlottesville.”

“It matters whose lives, voices, bodies, and experiences are given a media platform,” Aniko states. She draws parallels between the death of Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered by white nationalists for her part in the Selma to Montgomery March, and Heather Heyer, who was slain by a white nationalist while participating in a Black Lives Matter march.

Aniko notes that while both women were lauded among mainstream citizens for their activism on behalf of the disenfranchised, white nationalists derided them both, mocking them both as being fat and thus unworthy. In Heyer’s case, white nationalists blamed her for her own death as she was too fat to get out of the way of the car. Then they derided her for not having children, noting that her life was worthless if she wasn’t willing to bear white children.

What was it Trump said about “good people on both sides?”

Listening to Aniko and others talk about what it was like to live in Charlottesville in the aftermath of Heyer’s murder, I was struck by the comment that those who lived in Charlottesville were not taken by surprise. They had been encountering the hate of white nationalists on a daily basis. They refer to that time as “the summer of hate.”

“The Summer of Hate began for me on July 8 with the permitted rally of a North Carolina KKK chapter in the park a block east of the synagogue, which featured a state of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson,” Aniko writes. “Antiracists and anti-fascists activists had been mobilizing in town for more than a year, since our Confederate statues had become a lightning rod…”.

Aniko recounts that she joined with a thousand anti-Klan protestors in a show of solidarity against the North Carolina Klan group. After she returned home, local police used tear gas to disperse those opposing the Klan, while they provided a police escort to the visiting Klan members. Such hospitality was hardly surprising to Blacks who lived in Charlottesville. Although, Blacks only make up 20 percent of the town’s population, Aniko notes that 70% of all warrantless stop-and-frisk encounters are with Charlottesville’s Black community.

Charlottesville’s no outlier. That’s the blueprint for most communities across the US. And Texas has just voted to ensure that such racist actions will be protected. No police officer should ever be held accountable to being racist is, I suspect, the daily morning mantra of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Needless to say, Aniko and folks in Charlottesville weren’t surprised by the attempt to overthrow the government on Jan. 6th. Some of the very same folks who went around menacing the good citizens of Charlottesville were among the throngs of insurgents at the U.S. Capitol.

Aniko questions whether Americans have really ever had a shared belief in basic norms and values, or if we’ve all just went along with a the myth of a people united. A myth perpetuated by the same media corporations that continues to elevate Trump into some mythical strong man.

As I visited Carrie Buck’s grave on my last day in Charlottesville, I thought about how cities are like people. They come with their own historical baggage. Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 slaves during his lifetime. It’s said that Sally Hemings was only 14 when he first raped her. She, like all enslaved women, had no body autonomy. Jefferson literally owned her.

It’s no surprise then that the eugenics movement found fertile ground in which to thrive in Charlottesville. Or that Carrie Buck would become enslaved to the State of Virginia, the way Sally Heming was to Jefferson.

The surprise is found in Aniko’s story of resistance. The surprise is in the thousands in Charlottesville who stood up against White Nationalists, and those still working on behalf of reconciliation and restoration.

The surprise is found in the undaunted belief that Love Wins even over the Summer of Hate.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

1 Comment

T Wayne

about 4 months ago

Spot on!

Reply

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