A year has passed since white supremacists descended a lot on Charlottesville, Virginia for the “Unite the Right” rally. What started on August 11, 2017 with a torch march through the University of Virginia’s famous Lawn culminated the next day in a violent confrontation at the historic center
Robert E. Lee
statue. The chaotic meleen led to the death of
in a car-ram attack and by two state police in a helicopter accident, as well as dozens of injuries. Since then, the city has continued to feel quieter aftershocks, in ways that reflect deep cracks in American society.
In immediate follow-up there were public talks for municipal healing and justice and many local leaders assumed that the Lee Statue would be quickly removed. But public opinion about the statue remained fragmented, and in any case, the state law in Virginia blocked the removal. A stopping distance of the shrouded statue in black tarpaulins was built, just because the court would once again override the court. Thus, the reading statue remains in place, surrounded by building barrier networks, which lags in permanent state of temporary closure ̵
1; a symbol of how last year’s events continue to haunt the city and its policies.
Charlottesville has long cultivated his patrician Jeffersonian roots to become a mecca for artists and musicians, youthful retirees and clean cut techies. Recently, refugee families have been restored by the International Rescue Committee and an influx of urban transplants has occasionally lent out the city of Brooklyn in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But slavery and segregation are still embedded in the city’s landscape and memory. It is, of course, what took the all-fair movement to Charlottesville in the first place: the irresistible combination of a politically progressive, racial, southern city with a focal point federation center. As the organizers grabbed, there was no better way to “reconcile justice” than by targeting the left of the site for their own contradictions.
In the City Council of Charlottesville, anger and wrath grew swiftly over last year’s March as the progressives went to war on themselves. Debates as to why the white supremacists were not stopped from marching, and over the unfortunate police response, led to the failure of the police chief, the city manager and the mayor. The city’s new mayor, elected in January, was a political party, Nikuyah Walker, an African American activist. Her supporters expressed faith in their ability to act as agents and positively disturbing who could deal with racial issues. But her employment so far has been marked by bitter power struggles. In recent weeks, the city government has practically stopped as part of a dispute that the mayor at one time took to Facebook Live to terminate his members for their handling of a delicate employment process for the new city manager.  Much of this political influence reflects a liberal enclave that fights to give an opinion about outbreaks of virulent racism in the heart of society. This self-esteem has worsened the lines between democratically moderate and progressive, as in the current competition for Virginia’s fifth congressional district. Virginia fifth has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Harry Truman (not segregationist
George Wallace s
1968 Independent Campaign).
Following an acrimonial democratic nomination process, voters passed over several other strong candidates to choose
a left investigative journalist with a polarizing background as author of “Dangerous Relationship”, an inflammatory exposure of the American relationship with Israel. With the memory of the white supremacists “chant”, Jews will not replace us. “Still fresh, critics were not wasted in time to accuse her of anti-Semitism, although many local Jewish Democrats seem willing to ignore the assault as a partial hyperbole.
Meanwhile , the Republican congressional candidate, businessman Denver Riggleman, has struggled to define his relationship with the radical French in his own party. After allegations that a very correct figure was involved in his campaign, the Riggleman denounced a denial and wrote a powerful condemnation anti-semitism and racism. Yet, he is part of a Virginia-Republican ticket that includes gubernatorial candidate
an indisputable federal booster that has made the Charlottesville Statue the center of its campaign. This has continually drawn the Riggleman back to uncomfortable issues about ties between Charlottesville, racism and the far right in Virginia politics.
Many of these same problems have been crushed by the University of Virginia. The immediate aftermath of last year’s March saw predictable scenarios of student protocols. In September 2017, minority leaders included a brief statue of
and proclaimed him a “racist and a rapist”. They demanded more explicit institutional account of the University’s record of race and slavery. In fact, the university has made remarkable progress in confronting these venues in recent years. But the implicit question remains: did the historical sins and present unevenness in any way make it quite right?
One of the most important organizers of the Unite the Right rally is a 2001 UVA exam. The main local leader,
including a new UVA exam, attended Spring School this spring to prepare his research on permission for a follow-up-racial and live-tweeted racist and anti-Semitic statement until the university changed its rules to carry him from the basics. These events indicate how sophisticated and skilled today’s bigots have been using the university’s great openness to it.
The last few weeks have got even more controversies. The appointment of Marc Short, former White House legislature, as Senior Fellow at UVA’s prestigious Miller Center of Public Affairs, triggered vocal union protests. Critics claimed that the attachment of a political figure that was linked to President Trump’s moral equilibrium on white nationalism violated the institutional task of civilization and bilateral dialogue. College republicans and a handful of former board members have pushed back what they consider partisan hypocrisy.
In all these controversies, part of what is at stake is an idea that the university is a rare preserve for open dialogue in the face of illiberal forces. In order to protect this institution and the greater Charlottesville community, a consensus will be required on how to respond to hatred. The process begins with a clear account of the causes of racism and anti-semitism’s dramatic regeneration. But historical estimation in an ongoing climate of fear is no easy endeavor, and white supremacists are determined to exploit the fractures of today’s left and right, as much as the polarization between them. A year later, Charlottesville, like America itself, is still the appearance of how to face these challenges.
-M. Loeffler is Jay Berkowitz Professor of Jewish History at the University of Virginia.