All who believe in a just and civil society have a duty to stand up and condemn the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. Violence of any kind is abhorrent — violence bred by racism, white supremacy, and other forms of intolerance is simply unacceptable and must be called out for what it is and overcome.
Ours is a society fiercely protective of free speech and assembly. Rightly so, as they help form the foundation of a democracy. But the language and the props of white supremacists and neo-Nazis are repugnant and morally wrong.
For anyone who was there or watched news coverage, and particularly those who have seen the full 22-minute Vice News Tonight report of the protests and violence in Charlottesville, it is clear that we need to respond firmly and resolutely to xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.
We need our leaders to say that hate-filled speech is wrong and that it will be countered on every front. It is easy to say that the event happened in another community and is not our issue. But what happened in Charlottesville is everyone’s issue.
We also need education and empathy — education that helps bring people together, that helps us see the world through others’ eyes. At Dodge, we have been working to better understand diversity, equity, and inclusion for ourselves, our organization, and our work. We are listening to each other and to those who are able to advance our understanding, working to build greater cultural awareness.
At the same time, we are exploring the support and assistance we might provide to our grantees, our partners, and the communities they support, so that we can all move together toward a more equitable society.
New Jersey will soon become one of the first states where no single racial or ethnic group will be in the majority. As we do so, we must continually work to understand and address the shifts that will be taking place in every sector of our society. It is hard work, it is difficult to discuss, it is emotional, and, ultimately, it is transformational.
We need to celebrate and embrace our diversity. It is what makes New Jersey a great state. It is also why we have such vibrant arts and culture, creative and successful businesses, stellar schools, and strong communities.
Let’s work together to move away from the divisive and destructive words and actions of the marchers in Charlottesville and strive toward the greater ideal and promise of our country’s motto — e pluribus unum — out of many, one.
Chris Daggett is President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Photo at top Fibonacci Blue via Creative Commons