Source: In These Times
Communities in Charlottesville, Va., are reeling from a murderous Nazi and white supremacist march on their town—one that stole the life of anti-Nazi protester Heather Heyer and wounded many more. I spoke with Lisa Woolfork, a member of Charlottesville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, about what solidarity and anti-racist organizing looks like in this moment.
She explained that Charlottesville’s Black Lives Matter chapter formed in June as “committed Black folks coming together from a variety of walks of lives, to stand up for preservation of Black lives, to stand up and make sure Black issues are not forgotten.” Woolfork, who is an associate professor at the University of Virginia (UVA), underscored that she is proud of everyone in her community who rallied together to resist organized white supremacists. “This is what community defense looks like,” she said. “You say, ‘Not here, not in my town.’”
Sarah Lazare: How are you, your community and Black Lives Matter holding up after a harrowing few days?
Lisa Woolfork: I believe we are resilient. The reason we came out in the first place was for community defense. All the actions that took place that day were about defending Charlottesville as a community, standing up for our city, and saying no to the racists who wanted to invade and take over. I feel we did that very successfully. It was wonderful to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with a variety of people. It was Black folks joining in with folks from many different walks of life. I was moved by that.
At the vigil last night for Heather Heyer, the woman who was murdered, I saw it again. The same resolve for Black self-determination. For what Black Lives Matter stands for. To stand up and to say, “You might come armed—our community is willing to stand up against that.” The alt-right comes armed with assault weapons. They came to do damage. This was about the liberation of Black lives as well as criticizing white supremacy.
White supremacists are not just marching in the street, but they seem to be endorsed at the highest levels. The White House now has Stephen Bannon as a special adviser to the president. In some ways, he is the godfather of the alt-right.
What Charlottesville let the world see is that there is a connection between racist ideas and racist action. The reason the alt-right came to Charlottesville is that they were terrified to lose their Civil War participation trophy, their confederate monument to Robert E. Lee—who fought to maintain a white-supremacist republic. That’s why the alt-right was here. Principles of white supremacy and Black subjection still appeal to them.