By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – Mindful of the racial chaos in Charlottesville that claimed the lives of three people, the Consul General of New York Maria Theresa De Vega called on to Filipinos in the East Coast to keep calm and respect human rights at all times.
At the ConGen Hour on Monday, August 14, de Vega reminded Filipinos, especially in Virginia (Filipino population at 90,493) to avoid non-essential engagements but to stay informed of what’s happening. The face-off at Charlottesville was among the many issues that De Vega responded to in a one-hour presser with the Filipino press community.
Over the weekend, Charlottesville had been embroiled in chaos that killed three people – troopers Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates and Heather Heyes, and injured 19 pedestrians.
White nationalist groups, led by self-fashioned leader Richard Spencer, held a ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville Friday to protest the tearing down of the Confederate statue of Gen.Robert Lee, which was a council resolution. A group of counter-rallyists, meanwhile, assembled and confronted the white supremacist conservative groups as James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his vehicle into the counter-rallyists, killing the two troopers and Heyes.
Police said that Fields, 20, of Maumee, Ohio was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death. White supremacist leader Spencer is noted to advocate for a white homeland for the dispossessed white Americans and a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe condemned the violence and told the group of Spencer to leave Virginia, immediately after the incident. As of press time, Pres. Donald Trump blamed the “two sides” for the chaos.
Filipino Women’s Voices
The Filipino community here has raised its voice against the racial violence in Charlottesville which is currently in a state of emergency. In separate interviews,women leaders here have spoken their minds about the escalating racism in the US.
Ledy Almadin, president of PAFCOM in New Jersey, said that racism in America does not only exist in Charlottesville but in the entire country which is propagated mainly by the educational system and mass media.
“It existed as early as America was in existence. But the Trump leadership gave white supremacist groups the confidence and platform to come out and raise their voices. Everyone’s view of others are shaped by different feeds in this society – from news, advertising, school curriculum, movies and many other things. We can’t blame just one person for the mentality of these groups which obviously is wrong. They got it totally wrong.”
Award-winning novelist and feminist leader Ninotchka Rosca said: “Charlottesville is the concentrated reality of the daily racist and sexist micro-aggression and class exploitation we endure as people of color, as women of color.”
Referring to the death of Heather Heyer, she said, “we must learn to see such grievous attacks as both the apex of manifestations of daily racism, sexism and class oppression, as well as a harbinger of the future. That a woman was killed in Charlottesville should be a wake-up call to all women regarding how we will fare under neo-Nazism.“
An angry award-winning novelist and teacher Gina Apostol puts it more emotionally. “The tiki torch bearing guys were horrible, ridiculous, and disturbing,” she said.
For Joie T. Calub, Ph.D., an education administrator at the NYC department of education, what happened in Charlottesville was senseless. “We all need to stand up against hatred, bigotry, and violence. We must all take a proactive stance to advocate for peace. Let us stop pretending that taking sides in an issue is standing up for truth. Personally, I am still trying to find my way on how to promote peace in the best way I can. I need to self-reflect and and be brave enough in owning my responsibilities in helping create a pain-free society.”
(Featured photo from Google, a street memorial for Heather Heyer) #sayhername