No, You Will Not Replace Us

The Rotunda in 2007, when I was on Grounds. Photo by Flickr user “terren in Virginia.” Some rights reserved.

No, white nationalists, you will not replace us.

We are Americans. Our ancestors — and some of us — came from every corner of the globe. We are bound together by the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, not by blood or soil.

The tradition of our Founding Fathers, whom not all of us look like, but from whom all of us inherit, is a tradition of reason, not race. The Rotunda at Mr. Jefferson’s University is one of its sacred sites. It stands for “the illimitible freedom of the human mind” — not the white mind or the black mind, the human mind. It stands for hearing out those with whom we disagree and then trying to show them their error.

And on the terrace of the Rotunda, at the foot of a statue of Mr. Jefferson, you surrounded people who disagreed with you. You would not let them leave, your own leader said. That leader, Richard Spencer, rejoiced in the fear of one of their activists.

And there, on the terrace of the Rotunda, you got into a brawl.

There are, of course, those who would silence you. That, too, is against reason. Every argument must be heard and answered. Anyone who went to the Rotunda to brawl with you in an attempt to silence you also betrayed the meaning of the place.

But if you think that the proper use of Mr. Jefferson’s Rotunda is as a place to bully those who disagree with you — if you think that this country is founded on a particular race and not on the universal principles Mr. Jefferson set down in the Declaration — then you are the ones who do not belong in this country. Go back where your ancestors came from — or learn to live as Americans.

This is a slightly revised version of what I posted to Facebook in the wee hours of August 12, 2017, reeling from seeing white nationalists with torches brawl at my beloved University of Virginia.