I have been a resident of Charlottesville, VA for almost 4 years to the day. This is the first city that I chose to be a resident of. It’s the city that gave me the independence I’ve always craved. Charlottesville gave me my first job, my first solo apartment, and some of the best people I’ll ever know.
The events of this weekend have shaken me to my very core. I still can’t quite get over the fact the city I love has a cloud of hatred overhead. It seems impossible that the KKK and Nazi’s are still spreading their vitriol and vile hate speech through this country; it’s even more incomprehensible to witness the violence first hand. It’s incredulous that the President of this country refuses to call evil by its name. This isn’t something that occurred on ‘both sides’. It is ludicrous to consider the coalition of Nazis, KKK members, and white ‘nationalists’ to be a side. That is a group of hateful, evil people who are hellbent on destroying everything good and powerful within the United States. This was domestic terrorism. There are no shades of grey here.
A 31 year old woman was murdered. There is no way to make that okay. No words to wash away the fact that a life was taken. A life of someone who was standing strong in the face of evil. She refused to stay silent and let these vicious white supremacists spew their hate and threaten her community. She was killed halfway between my office building and the studio I teach barre in. She was killed on a street I walk down every single day. Her death needs to matter. Her death needs to outrage Americans everywhere. Her death needs to remind us all to be brave, to be strong, and to refuse to allow division and fear into our hearts.
This country is not perfect, we have a dark past and a dark present, but we also have strength, and we have the ability to change. Racism, sexism, and xenopobia cannot be tolerated. Senseless violence cannot be tolerated. People who thrive in the dark, sadistic corners of this country need to be brought into the light and held accountable for their words and actions. We all need to work together to champion our fellow citizens. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of ignorance and brutality. We cannot stay silent in the face of this disease spreading through our country.
The last 36 hours have been horrifying and tragic, but even in the midst of the crisis of humanity, I have been witness to hope. I spent last night under the stars with thousands of other Charlottesvillians listening to an 80’s cover band. I saw people of every color and every age brave the thunderstorms to stand together and remember that there is good in this world. The night closed with a cover of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, and the spirit of hope and resilience was palpable in the air.
Charlottesville is not the city portrayed on the media yesterday. Charlottesville is a community that values equality and diversity. We are not a perfect city, and we still have a lot more to do, but we will not be defined by the spineless monsters who tried to plant seeds of violence and discord here. Charlottesville prides itself on working towards universal acceptance, unity, and liberty. 80% of the city voted for Hillary, our mayor is Jewish and our deputy mayor is Black. We pride ourselves on striving to be the type of community that values the strength of diversity and progress. That is why these pathetic, sad, and despicable alt-righters chose to make a stand. They thought they could break us, and send us back in times of mistrust and anger. They have slithered out of our city and back into their holes, and we are still here. The Charlottesville that I know is already working on banding together and celebrating love and unity. So to you fascists who are not part of our community, continue to threaten and abuse what we stand for, we are more than you can even begin to understand.
And to those who are scared and worried about what the future holds, don’t stop believing.