By Tom Garrett
Racism is an abhorrent institution, period. No one who believes they are better, worse, or unequal based on the color of their skin has a place in the district I represent or the America I defend.
The charade that took place in Charlottesville earlier this month was either criminally naive or an intentional image meant to stoke the bigotry and intolerance that our Commonwealth fought to bury decades ago.
Unfortunately, I am under the impression that it was the latter and I have no sympathy for those who embrace it. As I learned more about the gathering that occurred, purportedly to save the Lee statue from removal, I could not believe what I was hearing.
While the First Amendment protects speech and expression, whoever thought that two hundred people carrying torches was any way productive must have failed basic American history. Regardless of any cause they wanted to represent, their actions spoke for themselves in the message they delivered and that message should be rejected by all of us.
Race relations are a complex issue in the South, especially in Virginia, but I am proud of the special role the Fifth District has played in their progress. It is the home of flawless documents written by flawed men that created a system for all man to be treated as they were created, equally.
It is home of General Lee’s surrender, the symbolic end to our bloodiest war and slavery. And it was home to Barbara Johns, a young spark in the Civil Rights movement who led her high school walkout against segregation and became the only student-initiated case in Brown v. Board of Education. These positive legacies inherently stem from dark pasts. We cannot forget where we came from, for progress will not seem as sweet. The pictures and chants of that Saturday evening remind us of the darkness that once intimidated millions, but it will not intimidate us now.
I embrace an ideology rooted in protecting the ultimate minority — the individual. Collectivization based on race or any other distinguishing trait has no home in republican principles. These practices inherently divide us, run counter to our core, and regressively reject others from joining our cause. There is no home in my party — the party of our founding documents, the party of Lincoln, and the party that fought to pass the Civil Rights Act — for a race-based organization. For as much rhetoric as the modern Left uses to associate these actions with my party, I expected to see more of Virginia’s democratic leaders condemn these actions, yet Senator Kaine and Governor McAuliffe remain silent.
As a soldier, prosecutor, and legislator, I’ve devoted my life to defending American ideals. Anyone who believes the color of a person’s skin makes us different is an anathema to the values I’ve fought for. We must remove the plank from our own eyes and work together, regardless of partisanship, to reject these organizations and look beyond physical differences on our way to our more perfect union.
Thomas Alexander “Tom” Garrett Jr., a former prosecutor, is the U.S. Representative for Virginia’s 5th congressional district that includes Rappahannock County.