Firsthand Reflections on Charlottesville

September 11, 2017

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On August 11, 2017, images of hundreds of torch-bearing men and women marching on the University of Virginia campus and shouting "You will not replace us," "Jews will not replace us," and "White lives matter" filled TV screens and newsfeeds across the country. The next day, more Klu Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis, and other white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to hold a "Unite the Right" rally and ostensibly protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a city park. Counterprotestors appeared both days to challenge the white supremacist gathering, and violent clashes occurred. The events in Charlottesville culminated in tragedy when James Alex Fields, Jr., rammed his car into a group of counterprotestors, leaving Heather Heyer dead and injuring 19 others.

This week the Berkley Forum asks scholars and religious leaders who were on the ground in Charlottesville to share what they witnessed and reflect on the aftermath. How did we get to this point, and what role has religion played in fighting injustice or, conversely, in contributing to the prejudices the world saw on display in Charlottesville? Moving forward, how do we build community in the face of hatred? What unique role does religion have to play in fostering understanding and compassion in our society, and in encouraging citizens to engage with past and present racial injustice? How do educators address the deep-rooted racism in our society?

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