This past Sunday I attended a vigil in Huntsville organized in response to the white nationalists who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to promote hatred and racism. Patriots from all racial, economic, religious, and political backgrounds stood together to decry white nationalism as a hateful, un-American ideology. I listened to powerful words shared by our community's faith leaders. I was deeply impacted by the genuine outpouring of love, for both neighbor and country. I was moved to reflection and motivated towards action.
What binds us together as citizens of America is our shared belief that we are all created equal. Activists of all types have worked hard to enshrine this belief, however imperfectly and imcompletely, into law. Now we must enshrine it in our hearts. Rooting out centuries-old bad habits of bigotry takes humility and effort, but I'm confident that we can do it if we try.
Heather Heyer knew this. She died fighting to stamp out racism. Following her heroic example is our best way of honoring her memory. We must perfect and defend our Union. We can begin by taking seriously the injuries that people of color have suffered, and continue to suffer. We can listen to their stories.
My father witnessed the lynching of a young black man in Mississippi when he was only a boy. The horrors of that experience left a deep imprint on both his psyche and sense of morality. As a pastor in Oxford, Mississippi, he worked to ensure Ku Klux Klansmen could not gain a foothold in the city. He and other clergy met with land and business owners, convincing them not to rent space to racist terrorists. He also performed the first marriage of a black couple at his then, all-white congregation in 1960 in Huntsville, which almost cost him his job. His example has shaped my moral outlook.
I stand unequivocally on the side of love. I stand unequivocally in opposition to hatred, racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism. White nationalism and neo-nazism are ideologies which have no place in our society. White nationalists and neo-nazis are not Patriots - they are un-American. Throughout our country’s history, white supremacy has posed one of the greatest threats to the health of our nation and the rule of the Constitution. This not a partisan issue. It is a moral issue, one we must address forcefully and without equivocation.