In the aftermath of Charlottesville violence

Turn to each other, not on each other

Message from President Kolovani on Aug. 14, 2017

Dear TCC Community:

As you know, I grew up in Germany and became a citizen in 1982. As a naturalized American, I believe this country is strongest when it embraces ideals of peace, strength and opportunity.

Those ideals were not on display in Charlottesville this weekend.

What I saw disturbs and outrages me. I echo the strong and unequivocal sentiments of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. John McCain and others: This country – the country that welcomed me as a stranger – has no room for ideology that promotes hatred based on race, gender, faith, or country of origin. It saddens me beyond words that lives were lost Saturday. When that hatred turns to violence, as it did in Charlottesville, we are all diminished.

That said, I fully expect that we have in our community those who subscribe to some form of these ideologies. Many colleges are seen as trying to suppress speech that seeks to express those views. Having lived in a country that, in its darkest days, turned to fascism to blot out dissent and difference, I believe our job is to encourage free expression.

Here’s the difference.

Rather than turn on each other, I encourage you to turn to each other. I expect us to talk with one another with respect and civility, so that we may arrive at peaceful solutions to improve the lives of others.

The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and several of its partner organizations earlier this year prepared a list of “Ten Things You Can Do to Stand Together.” Here is an adapted version of those actions in light of this weekend’s tragic events:

1.         Speak up and challenge bigotry whenever you see it.

2.         Talk with a neighbor or someone you don’t know about why diversity and inclusion are important to all of us.

3.         Analyze the diversity within your neighborhood, workplace, local school, or house of worship and initiate conversations about where and why there might be a lack of inclusion.

4.         Read books that help you to learn about the experiences and perspectives of people from different backgrounds – especially those whose voices are often left out of community conversations.

5.         Learn about our community's complex history – including the difficult parts – and consider the residue of that history on the present day.

6.         Write a letter to the editor expressing why you value diversity, equity, and inclusion in your community.

7.         Contact your elected officials to make sure they know your views, especially about policies that could disproportionately hurt members of marginalized groups.

8.         Attend community events that expand your understanding and perspective.

9.         Volunteer with organizations that focus on making our communities more equitable and inclusive.

10.       Donate to organizations and causes that promote respect, understanding, and justice

This is the moment for positive, vigorous action. To that end, I have invited VCIC, an organization that we have worked with for many years, to develop one or two targeted forums for staff and faculty. Together, we can prove with one voice and with sustained effort that there is no place for hate in Virginia.