Adlerian Leaders / Social Justice

Adlerians React to White Supremacy Violence in Charlottesville

Adler University’s mission is to advance social justice.

Our institution has consistently taken a stand against the kind of injustice seen in the past week’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia — From our iconoclast Alfred Adler denouncing Nazis in the early 1930s; to our founder, Rudolf Dreikurs, writing about issues of inequality in the 1970s; to our president, Raymond Crossman, addressing the consequences of President Trump’s actions earlier this year.

Here, we ask a few Adlerians to speak briefly about the events of this week.

Adler University President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D.

My initial feelings upon hearing about the murder of Heather Heyer at a white supremacist rally were surprise, anger, and sadness. How could murder happen at a neo-Nazi rally in the United States in 2017? My subsequent thoughts were the recognition that these events — and President Trump’s comments — were neither surprising nor isolated.

White nationalism led to the near genocide of indigenous people in the United States, and to the enslavement of African people to build the American economy. I believe that white nationalism is what’s meant by, “Make American Great Again.” And, white nationalism and white complacency fuel the ongoing oppression of people of color, Jews, immigrants, Muslims, women, LGBTQ people, and others.

Now, a few days after Heather Heyer’s murder, I’m saddened further. My hope for a terrible event like this is that it helps us to interrupt white complacency. Instead, it’s become a process story about the Republican party, or one centered on how the University of Virginia could have better responded to a crisis. As much as I share Frank Bruni‘s yearning for leaders I “never in (my) wildest dreams considered yearn-worthy,” and disagree with critiques of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan’s leadership, such analyses can pull us away from the point: A woman was murdered this week by white supremacists. A murder in the context of violence and murder that happens everyday in the United States mostly against people of color.

The issue is racism — legacy, structural, systemic, and ongoing racism. Alfred Adler’s call-to-action is gemeinschaftsgefühl: The health of every citizen in the world is incumbent on our resolution of racism.

Elena Quintana, Ph.D., Executive Director of Adler University’s Institute on Public Safety & Social Justice

I spend so much of my time in a space of promoting healing and positive transformation of communities, systems and people. It is mind-boggling to think that hundreds of men and women would unite to stand for hatred out of their deep fear that, if divided, they will lose their privilege in this browning nation. I am shocked by it not because I deny the everyday force of racism, I am shocked because these neo-Nazis were in denial about what they stood to lose by showing their faces on behalf of their cause. They were so emboldened to stand up for white supremacy that they may not have calculated how repugnant many employers and community members felt about their behavior.

Perhaps they were emboldened because our nation’s leader is a white supremacist who has surrounded himself with other self-admitted white supremacists. Since the attack, No. 45 has defended the neo-Nazis. I really appreciate his consistency in sticking to his values. Truly. It is such a favor to our nation that he refuses to give the millions who voted for him the kind of thin veneer of propriety they would use to believe he has palatable intentions. His intentions are those of the white supremacist that he is.

Our nation has a long history of racial subjugation, legislating inequality against Native Americans, Asians, Latinos, people of African descent, Arabs, Muslims, and mixed-race individuals. The creation of race is born out of an economic system that protects and advances white people beyond other groups. For decades, stating this as a fact was considered tantamount to furthering a conspiracy theory. The internet and the ubiquity of cameras allow for the widespread documentation of the creation of a permanent underclass within our nation.

While it’s easy to vilify and generalize groups of people, the truth and backstory of each person in Charlottesville is far more human. Peter Cvjetanovic, the man featured prominently in the rally marching with the neo-Nazis insists he is not a racist. His motivation to march is one of fear: that white Europeans are losing their “right to be here”. I’m not sure what happened to him in his life that led to the belief that he needs to fight for this cause, but it was obviously powerful. To his dismay, he took a stand, and will forever be remembered as the face of the modern neo-Nazi movement in our country.

Like Peter Cvjetanovic, each person in Charlottesville plays a role: the Nazi, the martyr, the victim, the bystander. We are defined by the roles we play. Because Heather Heyer was killed at the scene, her legacy has been defined. But what about those of us who survived? Will we take the steps necessary to engage one another in real dialogue so that we do not get locked into these roles? Each of our legacies is defined by what we do now. You can go from bystander to bridge builder, or from victim to educator. Most importantly, this is our invitation to go from seeing things simply to accepting the challenge to engage in the complexity of our mutual humanity.  In good times and in bad, the deepest truth is that we belong to each other.

Bradley O’Hara, Ph.D., Executive Dean of Adler University’s Vancouver Campus

The images from this past weekend’s white supremacist events in Charlottesville initially evoked sadness and heartbreak, but as the weekend morphed into the workweek, those feelings turned to rage.

My feelings turned upon reflection of hearing those who rightfully emphasized the fact that thousands of Americans and its allies fought nobly in WWII to protect their loved ones from the same hatred we heard and saw this past weekend. They made sacrifices for us; many of whom never made it home, along with millions of others lost to the atrocity of genocide. Have we forgotten this?

For those of us in Canada who think that this could not happen here, I suggest you think again. Right-wing rallies are set for Vancouver, Toronto and other cities; their misguided leaders feeling emboldened following these horrible events and the lackluster response by the US President. Our Prime Minister, in his tweet following Charlottesville, reminded us that Canada is not immune to racism. Historians would tell us that the Ku Klux Klan has operated in Canada since the 20s and in the 90s, the Heritage Front, a Canadian neo-Nazi white supremacist organization operated openly until 2005. Further, according to those who study hate crimes, there are now more than 100 white supremacy groups that operate in Canada.

If you watched video from Friday’s march, you noticed the unapologetic and inspired faces of white supremacy. They were preppy in appearance. Their language is sanitized and coded. Having lived in Louisiana for several years and watched David Duke organize young white men in a similar fashion, it is downright scary.

What does this mean for you and me? Beyond reinforcing the power of respect – respect for one another, respect for positive speech that allows for diversity in opinion – those of us in higher education and elsewhere need to resist and speak the truth. Timidness is not an appropriate response as silence only encourages such groups to act. And for those of us at Adler University, it underscores the importance that our mission to graduate socially responsible practitioners is the right thing to do – today and tomorrow.

In the wake of the events that have transpired in recent days, one fact has become clear: Our work as Adlerians has never been more important than it is now. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to fight hatred, serve as catalysts for positive change, and advance social justice.

The above thoughts represent just a few of the seemingly innumerable activists who make up our Adler University community. Now, we invite — and strongly encourage — you to share your own reactions. 

Please add your perspective in the comments section below.