On Saturday, August 12, 2017, the city of Charlottesville, VA became a war-zone when white supremacy took over the town for a violent rally at Emancipation Park in downtown Charlottesville. Director of Public Theology Initiatives, Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, was brought into Charlottesville as a National Faith Leader and Public Theologian who has been speaking and writing about the need to address our theologies and ethics of white supremacy. Dr. Robyn calls our attention to the parasitic relationship of Christian Supremacy and white supremacy and works to dismantle the logic of dominance that is illustrated in white supremacy.
On Saturday, Dr. Robyn provided a public witness at the corner of 2nd and Water. Together, with Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, Dr. Robyn, dressed in full clergy wear with a stole that read ‘Black Lives Matter,’ took place on the sidewalk, ventured into the street to offer a presence to people, and was confronted with Nazis and other white supremacists, including the Three Percenters, a right-wing armed militia. The over exposure to violence and hate ideology not only is traumatizing and unsettles Dr. Robyn but solidifies their call to live out their vocation as an Activist Theologian.
Dr. Robyn often speaks of bridging with radical difference, so that we can be united, but Dr. Robyn never means subject yourself to ideologies of hate and indifference in an effort to bridge. That’s why Faith Matters Network stands with Charlottesville in denouncing white supremacy and fascism. Nationalism has become our religion, and a culture of violence has become our liturgy. Faith Matters Network stands against all forms of hatred and violence and seeks to advance a militant pacifism. We do not believe that a politics of opposition can or will reduce violence. We believe in standing against supremacist logics and advocating for the politics of radical difference and building a culture of shalom throughout this world.
Saturday in Charlottesville was turned into a war-zone where local police and state troopers protected themselves inside steel barriers while the park and other city blocks were partitioned off. There was no police presence in the street to disrupt the violence that ensued. Nazis and opposition groups squared off in outright battle that was akin to the Roman Games. Nothing stopped until a body fell limp on the street. Riot gear outfitted police were brought in, but did not intervene in the streets. Likewise, police snipers roamed the streets, but never intervened in the violent face-offs. In fact, the violence didn’t end even when a white supremacist used a car as a weapon pulverizing a crowd of Antifa (anti-fascist) counter-protesters, where clergy and SURJ counter-protesters were, too. Freedom fighter Heather Heyer lost her life when the white supremacist drove his car and pulverized the crowd.
Hate is killing us all. Our moral authority as people of faith and moral imagination does not come from meeting violence with violence or hate with hate. We will not allow violence to weaken our ability to be a moral authority in the face of fascism. White supremacist and militia led violence invited itself into Charlottesville employing tactics of fear and aggression. Combined with state-sponsored violence invited into Charlottesville through political rhetoric originating from today’s White House, a day unfolded that left America’s sins on full display. White nationalism is a supremacist logic that is embedded in every system in this country, and our national political system is not denouncing this violence. In that respect, Dr. Robyn deduces that silence is consent for this administration.
We must stand against hate; we must stand against violence. We must denounce the vitriol that threatens the flourishing of our people. The South is not a place where violence can continue. The South must be a place for a culture of neighborly love and bridging with radical difference.
The people of Charlottesville have been traumatized by the hate and violence that took over their city. While we denounce hate, violence, white supremacy, and fascism, Faith Matters Network remains here on the ground in Charlottesville to offer trauma support and after-care, along with virtual healing circles and curation of resources from Director of Healing Justice, Micky ScottBey Jones.
In whatever way you hold space for victims of violence, please do that for the people of Charlottesville. We must find ways to be unified in our deepest differences to achieve collective liberation.