Charlottesville: Defying Hatred in the Face of Violence

It was only seven months ago that we joined forces with thousands at the Women’s March to denounce the imminent threat posed by President Donald Trump and his misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic worldview. We anticipated and dreaded what was to come, but we came out in force to counter Trump’s dark vision of “American carnage.”

As the terrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend show, neo-Nazis, fascists, the KKK, and white supremacists now feel freer than ever to threaten and inflict violence on their fellow citizens. As we work to advance women’s rights at the United Nations and in developing countries, we at the International Women’s Health Coalition deal with far-right hate groups and their tactics on a regular basis. These well-funded and highly networked groups have an exaggerated sense of grievance and paint themselves as victims. They have no regard for human rights save for their own. They have no commitment to truth and have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to use any means to reach their ends.

The heavily armed white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups behind the so-called “rally” in Charlottesville were not there to protest the removal of a statue; they meant to carry out a show of force, to intimidate, instill fear, and inflict violence. The weaponry and supremacist symbols on display sent an unambiguous, chilling signal. We are heartbroken and angry that Heather Heyer was murdered, and that so many, like Dre Harris, were beaten and injured. We are disappointed some in the media have struggled with false equivalencies in describing these horrific events—when it is clear who has inflicted deadly violence, and who has suffered it.

We at IWHC strongly condemn and denounce violent, racist, hateful words and actions such as the ones we saw and heard this weekend. We stand in solidarity with the nonviolent protesters who took to the streets of Charlottesville to voice their objections to the rally and offer an alternative, peaceful, inclusive, and just vision for this country and the world. While the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to assemble and speak—even awful and hateful words—it does not protect those who speak these words from robust, peaceful opposition. It is in fact the obligation of everyone in this country who professes to love their liberties to stand up and oppose racist, hateful words and violent actions by white supremacists.

We will continue to raise our voices in response to such vile hatred. We believe, now more than ever, that the core of our work—the notion that women and girls should control their bodies and their futures—is essential to counter the toxic masculinity behind the absurd weaponry and armor used in Charlottesville. Women and their allies, at the Women’s March and since, have called out macho violence and hate speech. We will continue to do so.

Not surprisingly, Trump himself has failed to condemn in unambiguous terms the behavior of these neo-Nazis and white supremacists groups. It is a failure in line with what we have witnessed so far from his White House when it comes to upholding human rights. Trump’s campaign and Administration have emboldened aggression and attacks on minorities and civil society, here and abroad. We know this from our coalition work with feminist groups in the United States, but also in Egypt, India, Poland and Turkey.

As we wrote last November 9, we remain determined to fight against any rollback of women’s rights and human rights, here and abroad. This includes standing up to racism and white supremacy.

Photo: Alidare Hickson 

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