University of Virginia Community Response to the August 12 “Unite the Right” Rally

On Saturday, August 12, an emerging coalition of hate groups – representing a variety of unambiguously white supremacist ideologies and agendas – plans to rally at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. Headlining this event is the prominent white nationalist and UVA alumnus Richard Spencer, and coordinating it is fellow alumnus Jason Kessler. We the undersigned students, faculty and staff call upon the UVA community to go beyond last Friday’s letter and join in public condemnation of Spencer and Kessler, their views, and their ongoing effort to leverage their connection to our University and our community to legitimize white supremacy.

Spencer is the most visible public figure of the “alt-right,” a movement which strives to reinsert hate speech and explicit white supremacy into mainstream discourse through the appearance of respectability. In May, Spencer spoke under the statue of Robert E. Lee at a torch-bearing gathering in Emancipation Park (then “Lee Park”) that clearly and deliberately reenacted the historical imagery of the Ku Klux Klan. Spencer and Kessler will now lead a host of white supremacist organizations – some with documented histories of violence – in “marching” at the “Unite the Right” rally next Saturday, an event that seeks to normalize racist discourse and physically intimidate minority communities by symbolically barring those communities from their own public spaces.

Spencer’s public prominence — from which his ability to rally a wide range of open and militant white supremacist groups is derived — depends on his ability to self-confer intellectual credibility. For this reason, Spencer regularly touts his connection to UVA. To remain silent regarding an association with a person who openly celebrates the symbols of genocide is to be complicit in his actions. In breaking this silence, UVA would follow the example of a growing network of alumni from our university and Spencer’s other institutions who have publicly disavowed him. In an email condemning the July 8 KKK rally, President Sullivan explicitly named the “ideologies of hatred and exclusion” that the event represented. We ask that the University respond similarly to the coming August 12 rally by publicly and explicitly condemning both the rally and the toxic ideology of its most prominent figures, in order to stand in solidarity with all those imperiled by them.