Yesterday’s white supremacy rally took place in Charlotesville, Virginia, approximately 40 minutes from my hometown. As I watched footage from the night before, I wept. Men with angry faces carried torches lighting the night up with sparks of hate. I was reminded of the KKK who did the same years ago. I couldn’t help but wonder how we had failed to learn from history.
I was born in the mountains of West Virginia and grew up in the Shenandoah Valley. Neither West Virginia or Virginia is a stranger to racism. This is a heart rending truth I’ve grown up with. I was only a tiny girl, maybe 5 or 6, when I would hear my uncle carry on conversations littered with bigotry. Even then, a fire would burn within me. As quiet and shy as I was, sometimes I would pipe up with a comment that would cause them to stop dead in their tracks. Unfortunately, a few moments later, they would return to their bigotry.
I was once thrown out of a store in West Virginia for speaking up on behalf of my Latino friend who was being treated poorly. The town I’m from is but a blip on the map and the shortage of diversity is apparent. Once a year, when the carnival guys came in, I would make it a point to visit with them. In rural West Virginia, they were not very kindly received by many because of the color of their skin. At the local bar, someone once hurled chicken bones at the African American gentleman I was chatting with. He handled it with grace. I was not so tolerant.
Five of my children are biracial and I am married to a strong black man. My decision to date interracially in the small town of Elkton, Virginia opened my eyes up to a new level of hatred and racism. I once asked my husband to go to get my purse from the car, only to come out of the store and find he was being accused of stealing. He has told me stories of marching in Stanley’s parade as a little boy, American flag in hand, only to be spit at and called N*gger. His father received the same welcome when he returned home from his deployment in the navy. It has not been that long ago my friends, and a great man once said, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
As I watched yesterday’s events unfold, my heart saddened. I was stunned by the callousness human beings show toward others simply because of skin color. People were injured and lives were cut short. Many would say it was a sad day in Virginia. It was.. But let me tell you what else I saw.
I saw the city of Charlotesville come together. I saw people of all ethnicities: black, white and brown, hand in hand, showing their solidarity against hatred. Sometimes it takes an event such as this to wake people up and bring about change.
I am proud of Virginia’s governor and the other officials who publicly stated that our state will no longer tolerate this behavior. I pray with all fervency this will be the dawn of a new day and we can put aside the ignorance and hatred that has plagued our beautiful state for far too long. The state motto sums it up well… “Virginia is for lovers.” The world is watching my friends. May we prove to them our motto is more than mere words.
Written by: Tiffany Jackson