Removing Statues Isn’t an Attempt to Erase History; it’s an Attempt to Stop the Glorification of the Confederacy

The protest in Charlottesville didn’t reveal anything new about our country.

Yes, racism still exists.

Yes, the KKK is still active.

Yes, David Duke still looks like a disgruntled Keebler elf.

But amid the assault rifles and swastikas, the reason why the permit was issued allowing this protest to take place has been overlooked: it was started in opposition to the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

When asked in a press conference today about confederate statues and their removal, President Trump had this to say:

“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slaveowner? So will George Washington now lose his statues? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson, you like him? … Because he was a major slaveowner … you’re changing history.”

The problem with this statement is that it takes the argument of confederate statue removal to the extreme; that removing these statues would be trying to remove a part of America’s history.

Taking down statues doesn’t change history textbooks anymore than coloring a picture of a purple sky makes it so. History isn’t determined by statues and plaques, it is determined by written record and oral history. The confederacy doesn’t have to be immortalized in bronze so that it won’t be forgotten.

As a black American, I don’t think the confederacy should ever be forgotten. To erase the confederacy and everything that it stood for would be to erase a major source of the systemic racism we see in our country today. To remove the confederacy from our history would mean to remove slavery from our history. And while the confederacy should never be forgotten, it in no way should be glorified.

Removing the hundreds of statues dedicated to the confederacy and confederate leaders across the United States isn’t trying to keep America’s history from being remembered, it’s trying to change that history from being remembered fondly.

Even living in Northeast, Ohio I am no stranger to confederate flags. They adorn trucks and t-shirts, are hung in windows and on flag poles. On my way to church alone, I will pass three confederate flags hanging on fences along the highway.

We must ask ourselves what purpose does this flag and other confederate symbols serve. For too many, these symbols are used to glorify a past when blacks were enslaved. For blacks, slavery means so much more than just working for no pay. Slavery represents families being sold and torn apart, blacks being used for experimentation and slaves being whipped, maimed and killed.

This is why confederate symbols evoke feelings of anger and disgust. We have known since childhood what the confederate flag stands for and the views that those who wave it and wear it hold. While some argue the confederate flag is a symbol for state rights, we cannot forget that the right these states were fighting for was to keep black people enslaved.

President Trump fails to see that there is a huge difference between the statues of people like George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Statues of Washington memorialize him as our country’s first president, not as a slave owner. Statues of Lee have been erected to commemorate a man who fought to keep blacks enslaved. The intent behind these statues is what separates them from each other and why white supremacists will gather around a statue of Lee and not of Washington.

We don’t need statues and memorials to remind us about the confederacy any more than Germany needs statues of Hitler to remind them about the Holocaust. Confederate statues belong in museums, not on college campuses and public parks.

No one needs a daily reminder of the confederacy or of the enslavement of black people. No one should look up to Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis as heroes. Those who fought for years, even after the Civil War was over, to keep blacks in slavery should not be held up as Southern heroes but should serve as reminders of a shameful past that affects our present.

If You are Surprised by the Alt-Right, Neo-Nazi Protest, You Have Not Been Paying Attention

Like many people this weekend, I watched videos and articles fill my newsfeed about white supremacists marching through Charlottesville, Virginia. And as people began to comment, I noticed a distinct difference between the comments people made.

While some people reacted with shock, people of color were wholly unsurprised.

Ask any person of color and we will tell you we saw this coming from a mile away. Ask any person of color and we will tell you about the times we were followed around a store because we “looked suspicious” or how we saw our fathers and uncles and brothers stopped and frisked. We’ll tell you about being fetishized for our race, told our natural hair looked unprofessional and how professors stumbled over our ethnic names but had no problem pronouncing Tchaikovsky or Lisiewicz.

And if you had been listening and reading and watching you would realize we have told you. We have written, and posted and shared and explained time after time after time and you didn’t listen. But suddenly when a mob of white men (who took advantage of the end of summer tiki torch sale) march through the University of Virginia campus, now you are shocked about how much of a problem racism is in our country. Why did it take Nazi salutes, calls of “blood and soil” and a man mowing down counter protestors in his car for you to finally accept what people of color have been saying for decades?

Why wasn’t Philando Castile enough?

Why wasn’t Tommy Le enough?

Why wasn’t one little black girl telling you that her classmate called her a n****r enough?

You doubted our experiences. You questioned our opinions. You called us thugs and ungrateful and snowflakes. The white supremacist march in Charlottesville is living, citronella reeking proof of what we have been saying for too long —racism is a problem in America.

These men aren’t just full time protestors; they are teachers and lawyers and neighbors and doctors. They own stores and businesses; they are sales associates and students. They are part of our society and their bigoted ideology permeates into their actions. They’re not just racist when they’re protesting, they’re racist when they teach us, when we’re their customers and when we sit next to them in class.

These are the people we have told you about, but you didn’t want to hear it.

These are the people whose rhetoric and opinions have become so normalized.

Trump didn’t create America’s race problem, he just made people who hold these opinions feel more comfortable in voicing them. These men went from typing in chat rooms to posting to Facebook. They have gone from meeting in private to marching in public.

So I am not shocked, I’m angry.

I am angry because my neighbors and teachers and friends voted a man into office who won’t call white supremacists marching through a college town carrying assault rifles terrorism.

I am angry because you post about being tired of all the negativity, when this negativity is my reality.

I am angry because my opinions and experiences weren’t enough for you to understand that racism is a problem. That it took hundreds of white supremacists marching with assault rifles to convince you that racism is still a problem in America .