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Stop the spread of hate and racism

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Civil dialogue is necessary in responding to Charlottesville

By Zac Oakes

I have spent a significant amount of time reading and trying to gather as much information about the horrific events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. Masses of protesters and counter-protesters clashed and one person was killed and 19 or 20 others injured when a 20-year-old man from Ohio (but recently moved from the Florence, Kentucky area) drove his car into the crowd, plowing over anyone and everyone in his path.

Through reading and watching the events that took place (including a very disturbing video of the car driving through a crowd), I have a ton of thoughts running through my head about what happened.

First off, I find the protesters that converged on Charlottesville to be absolutely repugnant and disgusting. Racism is still all too real, and it was on full display this weekend for all to see. I hope those who deny the existence of racism have woken up to the fact that it still exists, and in all reality, there is more of it around us than what we open our eyes to. Sometimes it just takes an event like this, an event of violence, to open our eyes and ears to how dangerous it can be.

Secondly, if you are trying to make this into a Republican vs. Democrat issue, a left vs. right issue, or trying to smear this as one individual speaking out for every conservative, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. When we are confronted with heinous acts like this, it is time to put political differences and parties aside and work together as human beings and American citizens to put to rest—once and for all— this disgusting ideology that our brave veterans fought against during World War II. We should not let this evil continue to rear its ugly head, either here or anywhere. Racism has no place in this world.

Reading a wide-ranging span of views on Charlottesville this weekend, I am sorely disappointed at what our country’s discussion on this has turned to.

We have essentially turned into small children, pointing our fingers at and placing blame on the other side, screaming “but it was all their fault!” while trying to wipe ourselves clean of any responsibility and morally justify our own stance, no matter how wrong it may be.

I admittedly love politics. I love the strategy that goes along with campaigns, elections, and trying to pass legislation. I just find it fascinating. However, this is the side of politics I have a disdain for. When we resort to these childish tactics and shift the focus from what really matters, it is a sad indictment of where we are as a human civilization.

We have gotten to the point where political stances and political parties/ideologies have come before people. We are more concerned about being right than caring about our neighbor, more concerned about winning an argument in a Facebook comments section than understanding why people may not have the same views as us, and it saddens me that we have come to this point.

Do those men carrying flags with swastikas, wearing military gear, and chanting Nazi slogans have a right to protest? Despite mine and many others’ personal feelings toward this group, they most certainly do have a right to gather peacefully under our nation’s constitution, but notice the emphasis on the word peacefully. Once there are disturbances and violence, that constitutional right is thrown out the window.

Racism is not genetically built into us. It is a taught behavior. Children do not inherently have hate in their hearts for people who do not look exactly like them. Instead, they learn it from those around them, even in subtle ways.

So talk to your children and your grandchildren. Teach them to love everyone and treat people the same. Teach them to speak out when they see someone being mistreated because of the color of their skin or the way they look. Be empathetic to others who have differing viewpoints. Our worldviews are shaped by our own unique experiences, and they are exactly that: unique. We all have different perspectives based off our own life experiences. Be willing to listen to others, even if you do not see eye to eye.

Racism and despicable acts like we watched in Charlottesville do not have to continue to be a trend, but if we continue to sit idly by and wait for someone else to step up, we are guilty of contributing to their growth.