“It’s okay to be white.”
The sentence that first started popping up on high school and university campuses in November is the same one that was plastered onto dozens of fliers, folded into a neat square, stuffed into a sandwich bag with a rock in it and tossed on the lawns of North Downtown residents last night.
Neighbors on Cargil Lane, Marshall and Hazel streets and Locust and Watson avenues were some of many who awoke to find such a message on April 18.
“I think it’s supposed to be intimidating,” says Gail South, whose husband found their note around 7am. “Why on earth would someone do this?”
But Reverend Phil Woodson says it came as no surprise, because there have been almost 40 overt actions or events involving white supremacists in town since August of last year.
“One of the narratives that people like to think is that on August 12, we were invaded, that people came from somewhere else,” he says. “But the reality is that there’s still a large number of white supremacists who live in and around Charlottesville.”
He points to local cars that have since been spray painted with racial slurs, white supremacists who have interrupted City Council meetings and an enormous Confederate flag recently raised on the side of Interstate 64 in Louisa.
Charlottesville has been the target of racist fliers before, and the Winchester Star reports the KKK distributed 22 similar fliers-in-a-baggie in Frederick County April 8.
Flyering is activity that only takes one person, says Carla Hill at the Center for Extremism.
On Monday morning, Reverend Woodson arrived at the First United Methodist Church to find its nearby telephone poles stapled with similar fliers, and with one caught in the netting of the church’s scaffolding.
This flier was a Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson quote that read, “The time for war has not yet come, but it will come, and that soon; and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.”
Quotes on fliers stapled to nearby telephone poles were attributed to Charlottesville’s beloved Thomas Jefferson, though Monticello’s website says Plato, Felix Frankfurter and Anton Menger have been credited with the same quote: “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal men.”
Though members of the First United Methodist Church have been very vocal in their opposition to white supremacy, Woodson says he doesn’t believe the messages were directed toward them.
“I really think it was due to the high traffic that would have been downtown for the Tom Tom Festival,” he says. “Any time there’s going to be a large gathering of people, it presents an opportunity for these white supremacists to spread their discord and hatred.”
He adds that local residents should be aware of what’s happening, and that white supremacy doesn’t always look like a man marching down Market Street with a swastika flag in tow.
“We can’t seem to get the vast majority of the community to understand that this is still happening and it’s going to take every single person to get involved in order to make a difference,” the reverend says.
Woodson nods to the Concert for Charlottesville, the free night of “music and unity” that drew Dave Matthews, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande and other stars to town in the wake of August 12.
“How many thousands of people showed up to a Dave Matthews Band concert at the UVA football stadium, and how many of those people are actually engaged in confronting white supremacy?”