Charlottesville 2017

In 2016, the seemingly simple request of tearing down a statue symbolizing racism was met with intense resistance from white nationalists and the KKK. Those petitioning to keep Confederate statues argued that they were symbols of Southern pride and free speech. Although many point to their historical connection to the civil war, there is a common misconception regarding their construction. These statues were not intended for the purpose of celebrating Southern pride during the reconstruction era, rather they were made in the 1920s to attack the black population. During this period, the KKK was rampant, and the lynching of African Americans was a common aspect of the social hierarchy. White supremacists felt threatened by any advancements in the black population and wanted to assert their place as being higher in social ranking through intense violence and intimidation. During this time, there was a “romanticized rebirth of the Old South” (8).

The tension regarding the Confederate statues eventually escalated to a planned “invasion” of Charlottesville by white nationalists in 2017. This followed the announcement of the long-debated decision by the commission that the Lee and Jackson statues did in fact symbolize white supremacy. There were two options presented: Removal of the statue to a site dedicated to accurately portraying its history or physically transforming the statue to better represent its complex historical background. It was voted that the Lee statue should be removed, and Lee Park’s name would also be changed. Additionally, Jackson’s statue would stay put but be transformed to better reflect history. This decision triggered white supremacists to riot and mob the city in protest. The result of this was the tragic death of Heather Heyer from being hit by a white supremacist’s car.

Holsinger’s library is a contrasting portrait of history in comparison to the statues dated back to nearly the same period. This archive shows the black Charlottesvillians as individuals, not simply a mass. These portraits were commissioned by African Americans and let them have agency over their own representation. Although these portraits adorn present day Charlottesville in its restaurants and offices, the reality of the past is often ignored. There is still a lack of acknowledgment and understanding of the true and painful history.

The chaos of August 2017 was not a random event. Not only was racism a foundational element of the riot, but antisemitism also fueled the white supremacists. The dominant symbology was the Confederate flag and the swastika. This ideology is a combination of superstition and hate founded in fear of an “other.” The belief of a “master-race” is the driving force behind this sort of superstition. When looking at August 2017, it is crucial to understand the history of hate behind the event. 

The events on August 11th and 12th were not the only hateful acts in Charlottesville that year. However, given the right to assemble law, these events were not preemptively stopped. Songs and chanting were common among these events to create a communal voice fueling their collective hatred. The chant, “Blood and Soil” directly originated from Nazi Germany and the songs had racist, Southern roots. Additionally, the commonly used tiki torches in these rallies paid homage to the symbology of torches within the KKK.

The riots on the 11th and 12th caused the community and UVA to self-reflect and debate their future. The aftermath of the event could be utilized to construct a more inclusive and understanding environment within the area. The specific relationship between UVA and the surrounding community was brought into question. How much responsibility does UVA have for its close communities and neighborhoods? Through initiating actions regarding social injustices, UVA could “set a national standard for the behavior, practices, and responsibilities of a public university in the twenty-first century” (214).

Three Articles About Virginia Immigration

The Latinization of the Central Shenandoah Valley 

This paper is informed by ethnographic data gathered over 13 years. It follows an unprecedented spike in the size of the Latino immigrant population in Virginia over the past decade. This recently enlarged population is located in a relatively unusual place of residence, rural areas rather than larger metropolitan cities. These locations have not previously been the home to these demographics. The term “Latinization” has been coined by journalists to describe these changes in social structure brought by the increase of Latinos in these areas. The paper specifically uses this term when referencing the unprecedented change over the last decade in the Latino population within Harrisonburg, Virginia. The increase in this population between 1990-2000 amounted to nearly 400%. This growth is highly diverse, including a variety of different Latin American groups each with their own unique cultural backgrounds such as Mexicans, El Salvadorans, Cubans, and more.

Harrisonburg’s overall increase in population is attributed to low unemployment rates and a growing economy. Additionally, the Valley’s agricultural opportunities draws in Latino farm workers searching for permanent settlement rather than seasonal labor. They would enter into the area through getting work in poultry plants since they were often viewed as unfit for other work. Additionally, refugee resettlements are prominent in the area of Harrisonburg. This can be attributed to “the availability of church sponsors, low-skill jobs requiring little English and the relatively lower cost of living compared to larger metropolitan areas” (37).

 Religion and churches have played a major part in the social environment within the area regarding immigrants specifically through the creation of ministries devoted to their demographic. While churches and poultry plants have substantially influenced the immigrant population within Harrisonburg, social networking has had a deeper and more unique impact. It is common for those who have settled to reach out to family members in the hopes of persuading them to join their newfound community. This is done by offering them assistance in their transitional period. This then strengthens and expands that distinct community (“daughter community”) within that area. 

Defining Immigrant Newcomers in New Destinations: Symbolic Boundaries in Williamsburg, Virginia

This article details how the media, specifically newspapers, portrays immigration within Williamsburg, Virginia a “new immigrant destination.” It first looks at the growing tension within politics surrounding immigration laws and highlights the recent change within America in the shift from immigration to cities to more rural areas. The paper uses a micro approach to analyze the influence of media rather than following the prior theme of researching it on a national and international level. Through looking at local media in Williamsburg, the paper examines the symbolic boundaries constructed. From this meaning making, a sense of “otherness” is created from the bounded communities and national belonging distinctions.

Williamsburg used to be a small rural town yet has greatly shifted over the years to a popular tourist spot. Because of its different attractions, there are a plethora of low-income jobs available which tend to draw in immigrant workers. The increase in immigrant population led local debates to happen over the “immigration problem” (501). This paper looks specially at the Virginia Gazzette newspaper coverage during 2006-2007 regarding this conversation. The findings indicated that a majority of the citizens were anti-immigration and used words like “we” to determine national membership with symbolic boundaries. They create separation through labeling certain immigrants as criminals, a burden, bad and other generalizing characteristics that can make them appear “other.” Through this, certain (notably Hispanic) immigrants are set apart in a symbolic boundary and viewed as “undesirable” while others, primarily those from Asia and Eastern Europe are accepted. By understanding the frameworks used to create symbolic boundaries, inclusivity regarding immigration can be fostered.

Identity and Assimilation Among Young Ethiopian Immigrants in Metropolitan Washington

This paper looks at the role of identity in assimilating in America for second generation Ethiopian immigrants. Chacko emphasizes “Race, ethnicity, nativity, class, and gender play critical roles in identity formation, retention, and change in a multicultural society” (491). The process of assimilation to one’s host society is often viewed as a central aspect for successful immigration. During this assimilation, identity making is influenced by a plethora of aspects of their host society as well as cultural roots.

The study looks specifically at individuals within the Washington DC area between the years 2002-2003. These individuals are the children of immigrants from a surge of Ethiopian immigration during the 1980s and 1990s. Chacko found that the concept of race was a controversial topic among these individuals. They viewed the “black” and “white” categories associated with race as being more fluid than is accepted in America. They often resisted labeling themselves as black and would rather opt for African. However, they also do not align with the term “African American” and preferred a distinction from “native Blacks” (497). The data also showed that many of the individuals combined race with nationality. 

Overall, these individuals tended to show pride in their heritage. This is attributed to their parents who grew up in Ethiopia and strove to embed their traditions and culture into their children. Their children showed signs of embracing aspects of their Ethiopian culture into their identity, like their commitment to community. They then participated in a unique blending of their cultural roots with their current home in America through “second-generation spaces that have elements of both home and host countries” with distinct music and cultural ties. They maintain multiple identities to find a sense of belonging in their different societal connections.

How May I Help You?

Deepak Singh’s How May I Help You is a personal narrative detailing his experiences being an Indian immigrant in America in the early 2000s. Singh uses this book to discuss cultural differences between America and India and the struggles he underwent to survive in a new country. He had not initially intended to move to America yet was persuaded to after marrying an American woman. In India, Singh earned his MBA and was working a well-paying job to support both himself and his family. However, when he moved to America, this degree did not translate. Because of this, Singh struggled for weeks to find any job that would accept him. Although he had a master’s degree in business, he was deemed an unworthy candidate for not having relevant experience. He eventually was able to get a job at ElectronicsHut as a retail associate. Although Singh expressed that being a salesman is an embarrassment in India and he was disappointed, he had to take the job for the minimal salary.

Singh focuses a majority of his narrative on the interactions he experienced over nearly two years living in America. This includes his co-workers, customers, wife’s friends, parents, and many other groups. He found that many Americans have prejudices and misconceptions about him because of his accent and skin color. His co-worker Ron even said Singh did not speak English. This caused confusion because Singh knew he was speaking English. Back in India, he was “the kid with good English” (80). However, because of the thick accent, Americans struggled to understand him. Additionally, they often had little understanding of where he was from. Sing explains that his boss would constantly approach him with any question about “the Middle East, Muslims, or a language that wasn’t English” and would then use him like a “one-stop encyclopedia on the Arab world” (106). Many people failed to see that he had his own specific culture and background in Lucknow and he was not a representative of the entire Middle East.

Along with bias and stereotypes, Singh also faced many cultural differences from coming to America. Before he moved, Singh explained that he viewed America from what he had seen in Hollywood movies. He lists different films that informed his initial perception like Home Alone and Blue Lagoon. However, when he actually comes to America his eyes are open to its harsh reality. Through his own experiences of struggling to get a job and then struggling within that job and talking about the personal lives of his colleagues, Singh realizes that in India he “only learned about the bright side of America” (98). He specifically became aware of the racism within America through his interactions with Ron. Additionally, Singh realized the issues of minimum wage as their job paid too little to move up in society which causes a cycle of poverty.

The interactions Singh has with customers and co-workers expose the differences between American culture and Indian culture. He finds that Americans tend to be far more open with things like sexuality and sexual information. In India, both subjects are considered taboo. In America people openly talk with him about these subjects. Christmas is also a culture shock to Singh. He especially is confused by the the after-holiday blues Americans experience. Because of these differences, Singh tends to feel drawn towards individuals who he feels are like him. During the first few minutes of his first day, Singh’s “heart jumped” when he saw an Indian couple (59). Eventually, he is able to find a community with the retail workers and even views them as a family. Although he does not sacrifice his culture, Singh learns to navigate within America. He becomes the top salesman from being able to connect with customers through conversations. The narrative ends with Singh’s boss asking him to consider becoming a manager in the store.

Public in Name Only

Public in Name Only explores the events surrounding the segregated library in Alexandria. It primarily focuses on Samuel Tucker, a black Alexandrian attorney who fought against segregation within “public” libraries. Tucker focused on peaceful protesting, most notably a library sit-in on August 21, 1939. This event consisted of six black men who dressed well and exhibited good manners. One of the participants explained, “The whole setup was that we would each sit at a different table in the library and read a book, and that we would remain silent the whole time so they couldn’t arrest us for disorderly conduct” (112). Tucker did not directly participate in the sit-in so that he could act as the men’s attorney when they were predictably arrested. The protest resulted in questions over how the men would be charged and what might change within the library.

The White citizens originally claimed there was no heavy push for a Black library. After the sit-in, rather than integrate, they rushed the construction of a Black branch. Unfortunately, the books within this library perpetrated assumptions about the Black readers and had very few books about their own history. This outcome was accepted as a victory for the White citizens as they “were able to accommodate the Black Community while preserving racial supremacy, hegemonic hierarchies, and normative mores” (163).

Although the library sit-in did not result in an integrated library, it showcased the importance of a space for reading and learning within the Black community. Public in Name Only provides a micro-history of the issue of segregated libraries by illustrating a specific case within Alexandria. By doing this, the book is able to deeply analyze “symbolic meaning and the structural dynamics of historical change” (16). While Tucker did not immediately integrate the public libraries, he was able to set change into motion by creating the first recorded sit-in protest in a segregated library. The protest emphasized that White hierarchy was not stable and there were citizens willing to speak out for the greater good of society. 

Southern Stalemate

This piece looks at Prince Edward County during the five-year period it withdrew from public education to avoid integration. This timeframe is investigated regarding what led to the closure and the aftermath of this situation. Bonastia explains, “Prince Edward County (PEC) Virginia is the neglected chapter in American civil rights history” (1).  This county lies in what is characterized as the “Black Belt,” an area of land that is predominantly rural with a black community making roughly one third of the population. The white population in Prince Edward County during the civil rights movement “took comfort in the belief that their treatment of blacks was more humane, caring, and friendly than occurred elsewhere in the South” (25). However, they greatly failed to accept integration into their school systems.

A strike in 1951 led by black high school students in PEC preceded the national civil rights movement throughout America. Not only that, but this strike become one of the five cases in Brown v. Board of Education. Although this act may make PEC appear progressive, it was anything but. White citizens believed that since the tax contribution from b lack citizens was lower, that they were being more than fair in the school system. They expected the black citizens to contribute more money if they wanted to improve their education. Although the nation began integrating, on June 23rd, 1951, it was “concluded that federal courts had no authority to interfere with state school segregation laws” (44). In PEC, the white leaders perpetuated the notion that integration was entirely impossible. Virginia attorneys cited a number of reasons for why Brown should not be immediately enacted, including black students had worse health and were behind in school. By the fall of 1957, Virginia’s bordering states all began the process of desegregation. Many Virginia school systems continuously rejected integration until they were eventually court ordered to desegregate. However, Prince Edward County still “clung to complete segregation” (103).

White students attended fully white private schools and black students were left without available education. Then in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed which caused the PEC public schools to reopen. Faculty “faced a mountainous task in trying to address the widely varying levels of academic preparedness in students” (228). Tension was abundant within the school systems as the black population was still not adequately represented. This led to protests and the closure of public schools for a period. The period of 1964-1972 was a time of hostility within the school board over whose responsibility it was fix the shattered system at hand. PEC’s public schools have greatly improved over the past decades. Although it is not a perfect school system, they have come a far way since 1964.

Chesapeake Requiem

In Chesapeake Requiem, Earl Swift focuses on the small community on Tangier Island. Through this narrative, the unique culture the islanders have created is illustrated. He explains that people outside of the community view it as “quaint” and “lost in time” (15). They talk with their own dialect and have created their own rituals as their island is occasionally entirely isolated from the rest of America. Although the other islands neighboring Tangier were also originally occupied, they were abandoned in a mass migration during the early 1900s.

The Tangier Island was originally part of a continuous ridge and then eventually became a peninsula from melting glaciers. This changing landmass has also been slowly sinking for much of its history. The Tangier Island will unfortunately not be inhabitable for much longer. An optimistic perspective gives the island another 50 years before it becomes inhabitable, saying, “‘If no action is taken, the citizens of Tangier may become among the first climate change refugees in the continental USA’” (22). The initial understanding of the changes happening to the island was erosion to the shores. This was believed because the concept of global warming was not yet popularized among the masses. Even those aware of rising water levels submerging land preferred to believe that erosion was the sole cause behind the shrinking island. Even now with the widespread acceptance of climate change, the Tangier islanders still attribute erosion to the shrinking shores. Additionally, with the growing danger of Tangier Island sinking, the population has dwindled and aged.

Although Tangier Island may appear to be a lowly town, it is a major producer of blue crabs. However, the loss of land also affects the habitat of these crabs and other essential animals for the citizens. This begs the question of whether this reality will prompt those not living on Tangier Island to want it saved for the blue crab industry. The crab industry is incredibly important for their small community, which Swift captures through direct experiences with the watermen.

Virginia Climate Fever

This reading focuses on climate change specifically in Virginia. The author has visited different locations in Virginia where it is likely that global warming will be the most impactful. He begins the piece by urging the reader to conduct their own research with scientific sources. Although it is a popular debate in our society, it should be viewed strictly through science not a political agenda. He then brings up the question that if this is a global phenomenon, why focus on Virginia. Understanding climate change in relation to Virginia is beneficial because it is our home, and we can help make changes. However, it is unclear the exact future of our climate within Virginia. We cannot know our new climate pattern until there is an established equilibrium. Additionally, Virginia’s climate data is difficult to decipher. You can get varies perspectives contingent on the data set. What is truly required to grasp the changes is the context behind the climate trends. However, the piece clearly states, “It’s getting hotter” (20).

The question then is, how much hotter will our environment really get? By looking at climate change models, we can possibly map out the likely future for our climate. While this will not provide a guaranteed future, it is enough to still be beneficial. Although the changes may appear relatively mild, the way the climate will affect our daily lives is unaccountable. Another question asked is the amount of rain and snow Virginia will receive due to climate change. This is harder than heat to track and anticipate. However, the current data shows an increase in rain intensity which can be assumed will continue.

Weather and temperature are not the only variables from climate change, our costal ecosystems have also been altered which has led to a regression in our oyster population. Climate change has the strength to lead to an event of mass extinctions throughout different species. It could entirely destroy different animal populations. What we can do now is try to find a way to preserve our current landscape to withstand climate change. We should not just take what we have for granted, we need to prepare for the inevitable consequences of climate change.

Virginia Way Blog Post

The text The Virginia Way discusses the current issue of the pipeline project.  The Virginia Way focuses on resistance against this project by detailing stories of the pipeline going through personal property and the controversy surrounding Dominion Energy. This paper exemplifies the ethical problems the pipeline has raised. It says, “For opponents, then, stopping the pipeline was no longer a matter of legislation but of justice.” The beginning section is dedicated to the story of Red, a 61 year old woman who protested against the pipeline coming through her property by staying in a tree for 35 days. This act of defiance set off a string of other protests and activism.

The greater part of The Virginia Way details the contention regarding Dominion Energy and its relation to the pipeline project. The piece highlights Josh Stanfield’s protest against Dominion Energy’s monopoly in Virginia. Dominion Energy’s power monopoly goes against America’s capitalistic system. Additionally, the corporation is a supporter of the pipeline project. Stanfield was able to recruit politicians to stand against Dominion, and this quickly became a popular platform to adapt. However, Dominion navigated through the situation and was able to successfully manipulate legislation by providing money to candidates. As stated in this piece, there are two rules when it comes to Dominion Energy:

Rule 1: Dominion eventually gets what it wants. 

Rule 2: When someone disagrees, refer to rule 1.”