The second anniversary of the events of Aug. 12, 2017, is almost here. That weekend changed my life and changed Charlottesville. For me, it was the first day I was conscious of being unsafe in my white body.

My wife, kids, and I marched on that Aug. 12 morning. We marched for love and we marched against hate. One female pastor saw us and walked over. She nodded to the counter-protest speaker on the platform and the surrounding crowd and said, “We do this” — and then she nodded to my two strollered kids — “so they don’t have to.”

I soon noticed no one around me was within 10 years of my kids’ ages, so we did what many people through most of history could not do — we removed our bodies from danger. We had the, yes, privilege to do that.

I was marching that day largely because of a discovery I had made about the land my family owns.

After my wife and I bought a house, I decided to learn the story of our soil. What I found was both dastardly and disheartening. In two deeds for our land, one in 1926 and the other in 1942, I read language forbidding certain ownership of our land. Specifically, it read: “No part of property shall be sold to other than Caucasian race.”

I have spent the better part of the past two years trying to understand that statement and my reaction to it. Part of that work led me to the streets on Aug. 12, 2017.

I hope we can mark this Aug. 12 with a posture of learning, a posture of reception, where we seek out and consider the many faces and facets of Charlottesville’s story. For white people, it might mean a trip to the clerk’s office to see if your land, too, is marked by a sinister story.

I would call on us, all of us, to seek out the truth and to spend a season sitting with it, before moving into action. We owe our neighbors the courtesy of knowing the truth and then working toward empathy.

Sam Heath

Albemarle County

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