Living Cities CEO Ben Hecht responds to the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” - Albert Einstein

This past Saturday, white nationalist groups converged on Charlottesville, Virginia at a rally that ended with the death of a counter-protester at the hands of a white supremacist from Ohio. Watching this unfold, I felt like I could have been in Germany in 1938 or Mississippi in 1960.

Saturday was a horrific and undeniable reminder how close hate is to the surface of American life and how important it is to speak out about it when you see it.

Race in America is a complex thing. We are a country undeniably founded on the genocide of one people and the enslavement of another. Throughout our history, systems were designed that isolate and separate us, and that empower a select few—based on the invention of race. These systems made it so misunderstanding, fear, and ultimately hate, are in our groundwater.

We have yet to eradicate that legacy from our society. The result? Not only senseless deaths like those in Charlottesville but extreme disparities across all major indicators of success and well-being between white people and Americans of color.

This latest horror in our nation’s tarnished history on race must be matched with both words and action. Inaction or equivocation in the face of white supremacy is reckless, and we must commit as individuals, as members and leaders of institutions, and as Americans to ending it now. As an institution, Living Cities is deeply committed to doing that. We’re convinced of the need for affirmative approaches to tackle these issues directly; to living a different set of values, rooted in a vision of racial justice and equity.

Read Nadia Owusu’s piece, Philanthropy: We Need to Talk About Power.

Leaders in government and other sectors must not equivocate on this point: the American Dream belongs to us all, and it’s worth fighting for. As long as white supremacy persists in all its forms, whether overt or covert, institutional or systemic, that dream will remain out of reach.

Thank you,

Ben Hecht
Chief Executive Officer, Living Cities