I woke up in the South on the day that white supremacists brought their hatred and violence to Charlottesville, Virginia.
Nine hundred and sixty-six miles from where blood spilled on those Virginia streets, mayors from across America were gathered in New Orleans — a place that was home to the country’s largest slave market; and where, just a few months ago, the city pulled down the last of its own monuments to the Confederacy.
We have all felt shock and heartbreak at the tragedy, but the struggle against racism is inseparable from a true telling of the American story. Los Angeles is no stranger to the poison of racial division. Defeated in battle, ex-Confederate soldiers settled in our town after losing their abhorrent cause to preserve human bondage. More than 100 years later, the beating of Rodney King stunned the world — and the images of it became an emblem of racial injustice.
We survived those painful moments, and the lessons of history live in our values: We remember and learn from the injustices of the past, but don’t glorify or lionize those who fought to protect inequality or profited from its sorrows. When evil persists in our time, we call it by its name — and stand strong against intolerance and hate, and on the side of justice, equality and inclusion.
Not everyone passes the test of leadership and integrity when it’s time to recognize that there aren’t two sides to every story. Millions of people were appalled by the president’s reaction to Charlottesville, but it is not enough to bring anger and despair to moments like this — we have to keep saying what’s true and leading with love.
That’s the spirit I found inside Holman United Methodist Church in South L.A. one day after the crowds dispersed in Virginia. People of many faiths and colors cried together about a weekend that saw Heather Heyer lose her life, and many of our young people lose their innocence. We gathered in the pulpit and pews, clasped our hands in prayer and shared a promise to call out good and bad, right and wrong, truth and lies.
In that sacred space — and in homes, schools, workplaces and houses of worship everywhere — the collective response to Charlottesville couldn’t have been clearer: Our heroes didn’t march on Washington, or risk their lives in Selma, so that people of color could be terrorized by white supremacists in 2017. And we will keep speaking loudly and frequently against hate and division, because our faith in each other leads us to one another.
The uncompromising pursuit of that ideal — and our determination to make it real — is urgent. Because though we’ll always know that hate and intolerance are part of our history, it’s our job to make sure it has no place in our children’s future.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs monthly in The Wave.