Pat Cervelli

The Motherlode Martin Luther King Jr. Committee denounces the Aug. 12 hatred, violence and killing by white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA.

Martin Luther King Jr., the leader of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement, said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

He also told us to “learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” This lesson has yet to be learned.

The white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville waved the confederate flag, a symbol of slavery. They had banners with swastikas; they carried torches as the Nazis did in 1930s Germany. An anti-racist activist, Heather Heyer, was murdered.

They shouted racial, ethnic and religious epithets about Black and Jewish people. Some were even armed with automatic weapons and menaced Jews inside a synagogue. Others threatened an African American church filled with clergy and anti-racist supporters. There is video of Nazi sympathizers severely beating an African American man.

What led to this violent march? It was the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general who led the fight to keep human beings enslaved.

The violence in Charlottesville uncovers the undeniable truth that lurks beneath the surface of our beloved nation: racism is alive and well. Dr. King’s words in 1968 are still true today: “However difficult it is to hear, however shocking it is to hear, we’ve got to face the fact that America is a racist country… The roots of racism are very deep in our country.”

This was more than evident last Saturday. Racism does not just endanger people of color; it endangers all of us.

All of us — White, Black, Latino, Native American, People of Color — must unite to eradicate white supremacy. We must create the Beloved Community of which Dr. King so often spoke.

Those of us who believe in justice and the humanity of all are the majority. We will not be silent bystanders. As Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

One hundred of our neighbors gathered on Sunday evening at a candlelight vigil in Courthouse Park to express solidarity with those opposing the white supremacist outrage in Charlottesville. We need to continue our effort locally and make our voices heard. “The time is always right to do the right thing,” Dr. King said.

As Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, has said, “The greatest lie told to the American people today is that we really have no power to change things, that the most we can do is vote for the lesser evil and keep our chin up. Yet history teaches the opposite is true.”

Just look at what the Civil Rights Movement under the leadership of Dr. King accomplished.

Pat Cervelli on is on the Board of Directors of the Motherlode Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee.