Charlottesville, A Reflection
by Campus Minister Rev. Evan Young

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia have been front and center in our thoughts. As we prepare for the return of students to OU’s campus, we’re thinking, “Charlottesville is a college town. Like Athens.” And wondering when what happened there will come here—and what we’re going to do about it.

White supremacists are marching and rallying openly in the streets of our nation. In the week since Charlottesville, they’ve marched and rallied in several other cities. They’re advocating policies and practices that give preference to white people and treat nonwhite people (and immigrants, and LGBTQ+ folks, and non-Christians, and women) as “less than.” They’re openly threatening violence—not just isolated violent acts, but a mass campaign of violence—to promote their vision and to force its adoption as policy.

Yet more disturbing is the extent to which they have gained the ear, the sympathy, and the support of key political and government leaders—from the President to members of his administration to leaders of his political party, both within and beyond the legislative and executive branches of government. President Trump’s failure to condemn the words and actions of the individuals and groups who organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, who marched through those streets chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!,” is a stain upon our collective identity, integrity, history, and community. The false equivalency he has drawn between the white supremacist demonstrators and those who gathered to protest the message of hatred, bigotry, and oppression is an insult to our collective intelligence. And the silence—or overt and enthusiastic agreement—of his supporters in the face of this insult is an embarrassment to us all.

This is not a political issue. It’s a moral issue. It goes to the heart of our faith commitments to affirm and promote freedom, justice, and community for all. We have found that in order to be true to our faith (our faiths, really, since we have many traditions represented on our staff, on our Board of Directors, and among our students, supporters, and donors), we must speak to this. And we must be unequivocal. We stand against those who believe that the right to rule this country must be reserved for “white” people. We stand with those who seek equal rights, opportunity, and protection for all people, whatever their race or nationality or immigration status or sexual orientation or gender identity. We recognize the painful and problematic presence of racism and white supremacy in our past and our present, and we are committed to educating and equipping ourselves and our communities to right those wrongs. If this sounds like you, or like what you want to be and to do in this town and this world, we stand with you. We want you to know that you’re not alone in this struggle, and we want to invite you to reach out to us and to each other for encouragement, for support, for challenge or a listening ear. We’re going to need each other.

Because the students are coming back. And they’re talking about this. They’re hurting, maybe afraid that Charlottesville is coming to our college town, in one form or another. They’re going to need all of us—our presence, our heart, our witness, our dedication, our faith. And we’ll need to be prepared, because Charlottesville IS coming to our town, one way or another. Our prayer and intention is that UCM will be ready with a faithful response—our campus and community need that from us. And we need you. Because we’re better, stronger, and wiser together.

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