African American Museum

Former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley (right) and Michael Moore (left) show the International African American Museum site to Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in June.

Former Charleston mayor Joe Riley has penned an op-ed for USA Today addressing the recent violence that broke out during a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va.

In the op-ed, Riley argues that only through a painful reckoning with the past can Americans move forward as a people reconciled to history.

"Much like the senseless murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the marching of white supremacists and neo-Nazis through the streets of Charlottesville has been a shocking reminder of the harrowing racism that still smolders at the core of the American experience, divides us as people, and holds us back as a nation.

"This, regrettably, will not end in Charlottesville, as it did not end in Charleston. We’re likely to see more such face-offs in other places, as cities across the South, and across the nation, struggle to reconcile two starkly different visions of the past we share.

"One view is shaped by an effort to come to terms with centuries of slavery followed by racial injustice that endures to this day. The other view largely ignores that part of our national story and seeks to submerge it beneath oceans of silence, indifference and outright neglect.

"We’re fighting today about statues and flags because we have yet to deal openly and honestly enough with that part of our past to reach a common understanding of who we are as American people, how we’ve come to this point, and where we’re going from here.

"Doing that will require a faithful reckoning with this painful past."

For the full op-ed, click here.