On Aug. 11, the cities of Charlotte and Charlottesville were very different places, although that was unclear Saturday morning, when people from other parts of the country were using the hashtags #Charlotte and #Charlottesville interchangeably on social media. Those hashtags were, of course, in reference to the deadly white supremacist rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, that has shaken our country to its core over the past several days.
We all now know what happened in Charlottesville: domestic terrorists marched through the small college town holding torches. The next day, one terrorist drove through a group of anti-racist counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. By all accounts, the events were not a reflection of the people of Charlottesville, whose city council had earlier voted to tear down a bronze sculpture of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The white supremacists who arrived to protest that decision came from other places.
What most people don't know is that a very different scenario went down in Charlotte Aug. 11. While white supremacists held the city of Charlottesville hostage that Friday night, a diverse group of music and arts lovers gathered at two CLT clubs, the Rabbit Hole and Snug Harbor, for culturally inclusive events that brought together almost every important local musician CL has featured, in one way or another, over the past six months: rappers Deniro Farrar, Elevator Jay, Black Linen, Nige Hood, Tizzy of Th3 Higher; singers Kevin "Mercury" Carter, Autumn Rainwater, Dexter Jordan, Celeste Moonchild; rockers LeAnna Eden and Blu House; and surrealist performance artist Allamuto, to name just a few.
Plaza Midwood was all about celebrating diversity, not separation, that Friday. But it could have been another story. What happened in Charlottesville easily could have happened here. When racist terrorists invade cities, as they did Charlottesville, they could care less about the people who live in those cities. Their aim is to create chaos and violence, and they serve a president who has consistently given tacit support of their hatred, bigotry and violence. While that president was pressured into making a statement against hate groups two days after the violence, his words fell empty in light of his previous comments and tweets.
"Maybe he should have been roughed up," the president said of a Black Lives Matter protester while on the campaign trail in 2016. "Knock the crap out of them," he told his followers, instructing them to violently confront protesters. "Get 'em out," he repeated at campaign stops across the country.
To be sure, this president is hardly the first American leader to endorse racial division and violence. The U.S. has a terrible track record with regard to race. The current commander in chief is just the latest in a long line of politicians who have gotten it terribly wrong in the centuries since European settlers slaughtered 80 percent of this land's indigenous people to create the United States.
But as more Americans over the past few decades have begun to acknowledge the country's racist legacy, white supremacist terrorism like the one seen in Charlottesville has become more prevalent.
And it must stop.
One solution is for cities hosting the remaining 1,000 Confederate monuments in 31 states to diligently and vigilantly follow in the footsteps of Charlottesville's leaders in wiping away those stains. In Durham, on Aug. 14, protesters took matters into their own hands. Carrying signs reading "No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA" they wrapped a yellow rope around the statue of a Confederate soldier, which crumbled to the ground with hardly any effort. In my hometown of Asheboro, where the statue of a Confederate soldier has stood in front of the courthouse all my life, a former Randolph County NAACP president has asked that it be removed and replaced with one honoring the area's pacifist Quakers, who valiantly resisted the Civil War.
But what about Charlotte? It's time for two prominent Confederate monuments here to go, too. One, on North Kings Drive outside Memorial Stadium, includes the words, "preserving the Anglo-Saxon civilization of the South." Tear it down. Another, now standing in Elmwood Cemetary, reads, "Mecklenburg County remembers with honor her gallant sons who fought in the armies of the Confederate states. With the other brave soldiers of the South, they struggled nobly for the cause of independence and constitutional self-government." Tear it down.
Unfortunately, it won't so be easy to officially remove those stains. That's because when former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was governor in 2015, he signed a law forbidding such removals. And so ... the monuments will have to be removed in other ways.
Maybe the diverse group of artists who gathered in Plaza Midwood on Aug. 12 could form a task force to help our city and county leaders come up with creative solutions.