Following protests by white supremacists and counter-protests in Charlottesville, Va., which ended in the deaths of a woman and two state police officers, University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce posted this personal account about her previous experience dealing with some of the groups involved. It includes a tragedy involving the murder of her brother, Cesar.
This weekend was a difficult and painful one for all of us committed to a more equitable and inclusive society — to those of us who believe in justice and equity. There should be no question whatsoever that those white supremacists who marched across the University of Virginia campus and gathered across Charlottesville hold views that are anathema to our values, and that their actions were beneath contempt.
The pain, and yes anger, evoked by what happened is intensified for those of us who live, work or study on college campuses. It is no coincidence that they chose a campus for their march, for they know that universities are diverse, vibrant communities, which are striving to become even more inclusive and are committed to building a better world for all humanity.
My own reactions are impossible to fully describe, for they are very personal. The images of the Klan, Nazis and neo-Nazis brought me back to the horror of almost 40 years ago to another Saturday morning when people from these same groups murdered my own brother, Cesar, then 25. My heart aches at the loss of the young woman, Heather Heyer, who was killed and the two state police offers, H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, who died in the line of duty, as well as for their families and loved ones and the many who were injured. This will be with them forever and I can only hope that together with the pain, they find strength and inspiration.
I recall a late night conversation with my brother, in which he talked about “the struggle.” He did not view justice as an endpoint, or a goal with a clear finish line. Justice, he said, was a constant work-in-progress. You pushed the boulder up the hill, it would slide back, and you would have to push again. You needed to stay vigilant.
We are at a time in our country’s history where we must put our shoulder to that boulder, for it is sliding back down with a momentum many of us thought was impossible in this day and age. We must recommit to equity and inclusion — for all. But even in our grief and anger, it is important to remember the words of Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
I do not have a road map forward, but I do know that we must find that way together. When our hearts are heavy, we find comfort in the collective embrace of community.