Following is the statement I delivered on July 17, 2017 at the Charlottesville City Council Meeting, where the police violence is response to the community counter-protest of the July 8th KKK rally and upcoming August 12th white nationalist rally were being discussed. Folks are pushing for the Aug 12th permit to be revoked, citing a specific section of the City Ordinance related to clear dangers to public safety, and questions around excessive allocation of city resources to special events. Some analysis on the meeting will likely come later, but for now…
Hello, my name is Marc M., and I’m a community member.
I’d like to add my own voice to those of so many others requesting that Mayor Signer, the City Council, the City Manager, or any other city official with the authority to do so rescind the permit for the “Unite the Right” rally scheduled for August 12th.
I – as do many others – believe that this permit should be rescinded because the organizers of this action have made very clear their intention to incite and even commit acts of violence and sow racial hatred in our community. This alone should be cause for canceling the permit.
But city officials continue to defend the permit and by extension, the rally, under the guise of free speech. The problem is, most of our understanding about what freedom of speech means has become increasingly muddled – I’d suggest intentionally so – by reactionary voices focused not on providing more inclusive space for a diversity of voices in our society, but in reinforcing a system where the voices of those with greater social power – white folks, male-identified folks, straight folks, etc. – are able to maintain that power over those with less power.
Let me say it another way: we act as if giving people equal time is the same as creating equality, but in many cases, it simply allows folks with power to continue to act out that power, in ways that continue to hurt oppressed folks.
Acts of speech are exactly that – acts. When we treat all acts of speech as effectively neutral, we help normalize oppressive speech, and further oppressive acts.
And what are folks who have historically suffered and currently suffer forms of oppression expected to do? What do our city officials ask us to do? Ignore it.
We’re asked to ignore all the resources and assistance the city is providing to ensure that folks with values in direct conflict with the alleged progressive vision of this city – the self-styled “Capitol of the Resistance” — have state-sanctioned space to attack it.
We’re told that by allowing ourselves to be angered, to be upset by people who literally would celebrate our deaths and those of many of our loved ones and neighbors, we’re playing into their hands, letting them win, “taking the bait.”
People of color are continually expected to sacrifice their emotions, their hurt, their very humanity in the service of white comfort, which becomes abstracted out into the community at large under the label “public order.” We’re continually asked to police ourselves, when no such expectation is placed on white folks. Instead of being empowered to draw on righteous anger and indignation at injustice, we are told to be smaller, calmer, quieter – or just plain quiet.
This is the price we pay for inclusion in progressive visions of our communities defined through the lens of whiteness, the loss of the very parts of ourselves that could be most valuable in creating freer, more human communities. Any truly progressive city would reject placing such a burden on oppressed folks.
I ask that the city rescind the permit, and reject the white supremacist foundation of this entire discussion – that there is such a thing as an acceptable amount of racist terrorism that folks of color simply have to live with, in the interests of the status quo.