Editor’s Note: Another conversation about race in Charlottesville?

READ THIS FIRST

Editor’s Note: Another conversation about race in Charlottesville?

Our country was born proud with a guilty conscience. Its patriotism flowed not from the blood, the land, or a shared ancestry, but instead from a common commitment to a set of abstract principles: the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Even as the words were written down, though, our government and citizenry were perpetrating a breathtaking genocide on America’s first peoples and enforcing a system of slavery that violated every principle of human goodness.

Our town’s patron saint, Thomas Jefferson, the author of our scripted virtues, was a slave master whose second marriage was unconsecrated, because it was to a slave woman named Sally Hemings. Their children and children’s children helped build the city we live in. That’s all just to say that our origin story, nationally and locally, contains a paradox: Our pride and shame come from the same place, because through the course of our history we have treated some people as individuals and others as groups.

In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, President Obama delivered a kind of State of the Races address, which coming from our first black president, was incredibly brave. If you haven’t read it in its entirety, you should. Responding to the notion that we need to “convene a conversation on race,” he said, “I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.”

Our city has been involved in a lengthy Dialogue on Race, and some positive things have come from it. But our generation has a different race problem than our parents’ one did. It is no longer legal to enforce racial inequality, but it will always be legal to be a bigot.  This week’s feature on the way the Episcopal Church has reacted to gay marriage shows how small communities founded on love and fellowship can evolve, from a place of strength, beloved traditions that contain guilty flaws.

Our country’s genius comes from its ability to deliver a free, if arduous, path to self-fulfillment. Our economic strength is built on self-interest. Our social fabric is knit together by a communal commitment to the individual ideal. If the right to a gun is guaranteed to all citizens, then so is the right to marriage.

The other thing the president said that’s worth remembering is that we are better than we have ever been before on the issues of racial and gender equality. We are the parents of our dreams. When our children fall, the world doesn’t end. When they excel, we celebrate.

Posted In:     The Editor's Desk

Previous Post

Editor’s Note: Soulcraft and the Blue Ridge

Next Post

Editor’s Note: The view from Babyville to Weddingville



Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to editor@c-ville.com.

2
Leave a Reply

avatar
0 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
0 Comment authors
Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of