How Do We Respond to Charlottesville?

Marcus Jarvis, Youth Advocate, Juveniles for Justice,


In the past decade, America has become incredibly different than it was in the years before. The events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month were a disheartening reminder of this country’s past.

Watching it put faces to people I usually only hear about and never see. It was a reminder that the stories I read about in history class were real. There is apparently still some fight left in the opposing forces we as a people were triumphant against.

With the oldest man to be elected president currently in office, it was not surprising to me that these old sentiments have manifested. The campaign led by Donald Trump was full of rallies which shared a less sinister but very similar theme to the events in Charlottesville. The phrase "Make America Great Again" was left up to the interpretation of individuals. The atrocity here is the “greatness” a portion of his supporters believe they are bringing into realization.

Many of these people want to revert to some glorified civilization that no longer exists, instead of bettering the already improving country we have. A lot of people like me started asking questions: Exactly when was America greater than it is now? Was America great when persecution based on sex, sexuality, ethnicity, race, and religion was legal and common practice? Was it great during the crack epidemic?

It is obvious to me and many others that America gets exceedingly more oppressive the further back you look. I find a certain peace knowing our past as a country worsens as you look back, because it means it has been getting better every day for a long time.

In this progressive society I don’t feel anyone but the police, bosses, and co-workers of the individuals involved in the “rally” in Charlottesville should respond to their actions. Those people can hold attendees accountable for what I see to be terroristic actions by legal means. Seeing people act in this manner gave me a much deeper respect for the work I have done with Juvenile Law Center and the work they've been doing for decades. Being able to help create projects to implement positive change in the juvenile justice and foster care systems showed me that there are many people dedicated to working together to improve our country.

These projects and similar work done by other agencies across the country are what need to be highlighted at a time like this. People like Lauren Fine and Joanna Visser-Adjoian, two staff members from Juvenile Law Center who went on to create a nonprofit serving a more specific purpose with YSRP (Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project), are great examples of responding to this negative gathering without giving it direct attention.

Ensuring the fair treatment and civil rights we all deserve is exactly the opposite of what that these hate groups want to be happening in this country. It would be a waste of time and effort to respond to the hate groups -  as groups of people dedicated to positive change, they are already responding to us.