OPED: What Can We Learn From Charlottesville?

David Bradnick
Harrisburg Area Community College

I, like many of you, am appalled, disgusted, and saddened by the tragic events that took place in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend. I fully condemn the racism of white supremacy, and I contend that, as a nation, we must continue to denounce it.

Hatred, especially of this kind, should not and cannot be tolerated. We must actively weed it out because racism is nothing less than destructive and parasitic. Charlottesville has unveiled a hidden truth about white supremacy and their subliminal, yet public, symbols.

Journalist Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post profoundly stated this truth by writing, “We’ve now erased the fictions that these monuments are about ‘Southern heritage.’ No, they are giant concrete shrines to white nationalism.”

The symbols of these hate groups are being destroyed, so those who worship them are motivated by a loss of power and the fear that stems from this reality. White supremacists are desperately trying to cling to remnants of the past in a contemporary world where causes of equality and justice are advancing. Hate groups are attempting to make their final frantic stand, and as we have seen, they are willing to do so at high costs.

Much is at stake on this issue.

Consequently, I fear that Charlottesville is one nefarious event of many more to come while we, as a nation, wrestle with the sins of our past. Although this reality is unfortunate, we must come to grips with the gravity of the situation, and all communities must prepare for future demonstrations of hatred by white supremacists. Preparations must keep in mind that hatred cannot be overcome with hatred.

Instead, we must engage in works of love and peace. Hate groups want to distract us from this work. But we cannot allow them to distract us. These groups desire confrontation and violence. We must not give it to them. They want an audience to whom they can spew their vile hatred. We must not provide them with an audience. Hate groups thrive off of distractions and confrontations.

Therefore, we must be intentional to deprive them of these things. We should not confront them in the streets at their protests. If they have no audience, to whom will their words reach? No one. If they have no audience, who will be infected by their hatred? No one. Their hatred will only echo within emptiness. As a result, their hatred will fade away and become nothingness.

Alternative rallies of peace and love allow people of justice and equality to focus upon the task at hand. As a community, we must be intentional about assembling in alternative locations so that we are not sucked into the traps that are set by hate groups. We live in a nation of free speech, which means that we cannot physically stop hate groups from protesting.

Free speech, though, is impotent when it is not heard. So, let them protest on empty streets with no ears to ear, and they will leave distraught and defeated. We cannot allow ourselves to be entrapped by their snares of evil. Confrontation will only embolden and energize them. Instead, we must starve the parasitic nature of hatred.

For advocate of love and peace, success requires discipline, planning, and the efforts of a community working together. It would be naïve to think that such events would never come to York, PA. Our community and our leaders must rise up now. We must partner with others to continue the work of peace, love, and justice. We shall overcome!

— David Bradnick is instructor of philosophy at Harrisburg Area Community College, York campus.