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Sunday Mornings With Rania: Reflections on Charlottesville

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I spent two hours going back-to-school shopping with my eldest child Saturday. We talked about her excitement and her desire to see friends, old and new. Aware that she would grow and change so much over the next academic year, I studied her face as she shared her ideas, making as many mental notes as I could. Math, science, history, reading and the arts . . . she would devour all of it. With each year that passed, she was finding her way in our beautiful world. I reminded her that with that reality comes responsibility and a need to contribute to our unique community, to our great state and our incredible nation.

We had a lovely day. But during our “phone free” time together, I could hear and feel the “breaking alerts” beeping for my attention in my purse. I finally stopped to see the news . . . the horrific details slowly lingering over me, I found the headlines tragic and tragically sad: Vehicle plows into a group of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia; injuries unknown…

Vehicle plows? White nationalist rally? In Virginia?! Seriously? In the United States of America?

The irony hit me hard. While I was teaching my daughter that we live in the greatest country on earth, a country of limitless possibilities and about the duty we inherently have to roll up our sleeves and pour our hearts back into our community, with a love for all no matter race, color or creed — a protest based on filth and hatred was taking place in Virginia where those gathering were not pushing a positive agenda in a peaceful manner but gathered to spew hatred and destruction.

According to Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, “multiple white power groups had gathered including members of neo-Nazi organizations, racist skinheads groups and KKK factions” for a “Unite the Right” White Supremacy rally. We now know that additionally present were the white nationalist organizations Vanguard America and Identity Evropa, the Southern Nationalist League of the South, the National Socialist Movement, the Traditionalist Workers Party and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights. Their goal was to come together to unify and protect “white peoples’ voice” among other things.

As if that alone isn’t enough, the sad news remained that as counter protestors gathered and tensions rose, a cowardly Ohio man, James Alex Fields, Jr. (20) viciously plowed his car into a group individuals killing a 32-year-old woman and leaving 19 others injured. A 22-year-old UVA student told the AP that “several hundred counter-protesters were marching when suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound. A silver Dodge Challenger smashed into another car, then backed up, barreling through a ‘sea of people.'”

Why? How? The thought of it all still shakes me. What are we as a nation coming to and what on earth do we say to our children? Especially those old enough to see the headlines?

We are Americans

That one word means a great deal. We are Americans. We are a country of immigrants, a melting pot of humanity living in a country that thrives based on our ability to co-exist. We welcome all people from all walks of life.

First Amendment Reminder

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech but it does not protect hate speech. Additionally, it allows for the right to “peacefully assemble” or “protest” but never to gather and terrorize and destroy. Note that in some cases, a permit may be required to gather and share information.

A New Kind of Power

I’ve taken the last few hours to really think about what today’s event means for me and my life. What it means for my children and their lives. And I keep coming back to the word “power” and how I will actively choose to see it and define it for my children.

What is power? Are these white supremacists powerful? Absolutely not. Is Fields powerful? Certainly not.

There is no power in violence and terror.
There is no power in hatred.
There is no power in destruction.
There is no power in death.
There is no power in fear.

True power comes from peaceful discussion and peaceful discord.
True power comes from loving all others.
True power comes from building bridges, together.
True power comes from investing in each other and cultivating life.
True power comes from faith.

True power comes from people like my eldest child who sees all others as “friends” and every opportunity as a blessing. She uses her voice to make her way but builds others up as she goes. She gains nothing in others sadness or destruction.  And here is the greatest truth . . . in addition to the millions of adults across our great country who renounce vile hatred, my daughter is just one of hundreds of thousands of other children who, likewise, thrive on American unity. In this world of uncertainty and chaos, we will always be the louder, stronger and more powerful group. Period.

Posted by Rania Mankarious on 13 Aug 2017

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston