A personal reflection...
By Nelson Santana August 16, 2017
The tragic events that took place this past Saturday will serve as another scar for the tumultuous history of race in the United States. The events that unfolded are not shocking to me. I have visited the state of Virginia on several occasions in the past few years and I must admit there have been moments when I have felt unwelcome.
It is hard for me to paint a picture to the reader of my experience. However, I do know there are many people of color who know that feeling: individuals looking at me as though I were an exotic living creature yet uncomfortable when engaging me or the unwavering body language letting me know I should not occupy "their" space.
Most recently, I attended a conference pertinent to librarianship in May 2016. Librarians are a cool and quirky group and for the third straight year, I had a blast at the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM) Conference.
The difference between this visit and previous ones is that for the first time I set foot on the beautiful campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Oftentimes, friends, colleagues and at times relatives believe I am paranoid when I point-out what are apparent racist actions by the people in my surroundings. For those like me, I am certain there are those within your inner circle who argue that you're just being paranoid, over analyzing the situation, or looking for something for which to complain.
I have news for those people: Saturday's bigoted gathering by white supremacists is proof that people like me are not paranoid, over analytical, nor looking for something racial to complain about in front of our friends, colleagues, relatives, and those within our inner circle!
Charlottesville, Virginia Highlights Hatred in America Leer en español
What we know:
Hundreds of activists and white supremacists clashed Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. White nationalists organized at the University of Virginia while activists attended to counter-protest the gathering of the white supremacists.
According to several media outlets, the group chose to meet at the University of Virginia as there were several requests to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. Born in Virginia, Lee commanded Confederate forces during the Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865.
Prior to Saturday, several locals in Charlottesville contacted the courts to ban Saturday's campus gathering. Teresa A. Sullivan, outgoing president of the University of Virginia, in statements prior to Friday's march, condemned the group's ideology. However, the president also defended the right of white nationalists to express their views. Through a press release posted on the university's official website, President Sullivan stated:
"As President of the University of Virginia, I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protestors that marched on our Grounds this evening. I strongly condemn the unprovoked assault on members of our community, including University personnel who were attempting to maintain order."
A car, driven by white supremacist James Alex Fields, ran over several people and left several injured. Activist Heather Heyer lost her life. Two state police pilots also lost their lives in a helicopter crash while watching the protests. So far three people are known to have lost their lives and at least 35 people were injured.
Several people commented via social media. Via Twitter, Dominican actress Laura Gomez wrote, "The driver of that car imitated a terrorist act previously used by ISIS. A terrorist attack is what that was. Call it that!" Dominican percussionist Eddy Reyes retweeted, "This is so hard to look at...smh" and tweeted, "These people found their voice in The Donald, and it's definitely unfolding for the worst."
Former President Barack Obama shared a photo on Twitter with the words: "No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin or his background or his religion."
In a statement, President Trump stated, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides."
Colleagues and critics alike have criticized the president of the United States for not immediately condemning the acts of the white supremacists. Other people have chimed in or criticized the president and the violent acts:
— “I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.” — Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer.
— “Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” — Senator Cory Gardner.
— “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists” — Senator Marco Rubio.
— “@POTUS needs to speak out against the poisonous resurgence of white supremacy. There are not “many sides” here, just right and wrong.” - Congressman Adam Schiff.
— “Even as we protect free speech and assembly, we must condemn hatred, violence and white supremacy.” — Former President Bill Clinton.
— “The violence, chaos, and apparent loss of life in Charlottesville is not the fault of “many sides.” It is racists and white supremacists.” — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.
— “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.” — Senator Orrin Hatch.