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Charlottesville: Beyond the Hashtag


by Adam Slate, candidate for U.S. Congress, Virginia’s 5th District. Visit http://slateforcongress.com to learn more

The flood of white nationalists who invaded Charlottesville last month brandishing torches, tear gas, and other weapons got many people’s attention, but what happened was more than just an event, trending hashtag, or current event discussion. It was the tip of the iceberg representing the daily lived experience of many of our neighbors; a reflection of the long history and ongoing struggle with racism and racial inequity that has permeated this nation since its origin.

Common reactions immediately following the atrocities included alarm, anger, unity, shock, and disbelief. We heard the statements such as “this is not Charlottesville.” However, a closer look shows that it is Charlottesville for many in our community.

Read the powerful post by Albemarle County farmer Chris Newman, who speaks compellingly and directly about the painful experiences Black citizens must navigate daily, with or without overt white supremacists in town.  This is why the recent events in Charlottesville must be viewed in a larger context. It one of the primary reasons I am running for Congress: to fight for equity, dignity, and security for everyone in our communities.

As a candidate for public office, it is my job to seek out and listen to the voices of all of my potential constituents, including those who are least heard and most vulnerable. As a fellow citizen, I believe it is our responsibility to improve our communities, call out wrongs when we see them, and talk to each other about those things around which we disagree. And as a person of faith, I am called to treat people with dignity and to work to leave our world better than it was when I got here.

An important first step is to fix the broken public dialogue that impairs our ability to discuss complex issues in a meaningful way. We must start these discussions with each other from a point of common ground. This work is hard, requires patience, and can be full of missteps and misunderstandings. But there is no better way to move forward in the coming weeks and months than by bringing a willingness to listen and engage.

In this way, we can begin to address the underlying policies and structures that prevent all Americans from enjoying the freedoms, protections, and benefits promised to us by our Constitution. We know objectively that our skin color affects our ability to get a job, to be paid a fair wage, to get promoted, to stay healthy, to find housing, to be safe in our neighborhood, to gain an education, to be treated fairly in the criminal justice system, and to have our vote counted. This must change. In addition to being unjust, I believe these dynamics send a signal that white supremacist attitudes are acceptable. They are not.

We must expand the conversation beyond #Charlottesville to include how to attain justice and equity for everyone on a systemic level. Recent events have created yet another opportunity for us to get it right as a nation and make America work for all Americans. Let’s commit to getting there.


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