Fighting ‘Uncivil Wars’

Dr. Yohuru Williams took over as the new dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of St. Thomas this year. Williams was formerly the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Fairfield University in Connecticut. (Photo courtesy of University of St. Thomas)
Dr. Yohuru Williams

On Jan. 6, the American people gathered around their televisions and witnessed an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Some watched in horror while others rejoiced as domestic terrorists entered the building, proudly displaying Confederate flags, MAGA paraphernalia and firearms.  

Demonstrations and protests are generally known to promote a message or cause, like women’s rights and free health care. However, the events of Jan. 6 were an insurrection, a broadcast of violence with an undemocratic agenda. 

Two weeks later, on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden was sworn into office. Although Biden was surrounded by diverse people of various ethnicities and creeds, the country was divided.  

“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts,” Biden said during his inaugural speech. 

While there is no official definition for “uncivil war,” it might be thought of as a raging conflict of opposing parties or ideologies fueled by malice and ignorance.  

“When people marched into the Capitol carrying Confederate flags, that is a symbol of their support for white supremacy,” said Yohuru Williams, professor of history at the University of St. Thomas. “I think our democracy is in mortal danger, in this moment, when there is a fundamental lack of trust in the political process.” 

Williams, a university chair and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas, strives to end uncivil wars by trying to free the Twin Cities of racial disparities.  

The Racial Justice Initiative focuses on supporting racial justice education, exploring community partnerships and engaging in conversations addressing race within the Twin Cities. 

Williams founded the Racial Justice Initiative in response to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. 

“In that moment, there was an immediacy here in the Twin Cities that I didn’t feel before,” he said.   

The sense of urgency has faded as the months have gone by, Williams said.  “We’re going to be coming up on a pretty grim anniversary here in a couple months, and it’ll be the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s killing. And the question for all of us at that point will be how far we have come,” he said.  

I think ending an uncivil war isn’t about leading a nation or holding conversations around racial injusticeHatred led to Minneapolis burning and the insurrection at the Capitol. Ending an uncivil war starts by recognizing the hatred people hold within themselves and wanting better for yourself and your community. How will you choose to end this uncivil war?