Lessons From Charlottesville
The scenes unfolded like a horror movie. Groups of men walking with tiki torches, chanting Nazi slogans. A young woman mowed down by a car and more than a dozen people injured by a fanatic intent on silencing protesters. And a president who would not denounce the white supremacists, earning praise from former Ku Klux Klan Chief David Duke.
It has been exactly one year since the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, an event that heralded a new and eerie chapter in American politics. The violence and hateful rhetoric spewed by attendees revealed the shifting of hate groups from the most extreme peripheries of our politics to the spotlight. It also underscored the serious consequences of a president who has vilified Muslims, initiated a large-scale crackdown on immigrants and bragged about assaulting women.
Since then, far right rallies have continued both around the country and our city, totaling 10 since last January. Not surprisingly, hate crimes have increased too, rising a shocking 44% since 2014, according to the Department of Justice. Earlier this summer, a Sikh man was attacked in Stanislaus County and a swastika spray painted on his truck; An African-American young man assaulted and left to die outside an El Sobrante bar; A Sacramento man punched in a public restroom after being overheard talking about his boyfriend. Alameda County has not been spared, with a 30 percent increase in hate crimes in 2017 alone.
To see hateful rhetoric creep back into mainstream politics nearly decades after the gains of the Civil Rights movement is discouraging and upsetting. But it’s also important to remember that the vast majority of Americans were horrified by what they saw in Charlottesville and do not espouse these views. Still, Charlottesville and other extremist rallies are an ongoing reminder that we must continually reiterate our values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance and teach and practice them every day.
That is why I am proud to announce that my office is leading the way in the creation of United Against Hate Week this November. During the week of November 11-18, 2018, Berkeley and many other Alameda County cities will convene rallies, film screenings, art projects, speakers, community dialogues and storytelling workshops to learn ways we can effectively stand up to hate groups and make sure hate finds no home in the Bay Area. The goal is to give communities an opportunity to learn from one another, address specific hate crime incidents and above all, seek ways to stop hateful rhetoric from spreading.
At a time when our country is deeply divided and intolerance is on the rise, we must strive to unite, educate, inspire and build a shared vision of an inclusive Bay Area and country that rejects hate and bigotry. Won’t you join us?
If you are a city or organization interested in participating in the United Against Hate Week, please contact Jac McCormick at JMcCormick@cityofberkeley.info