Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Thoughts on Charlottesville
I am the great-great-granddaughter of a Confederate soldier. My great-grandmother was not permitted to wear blue dresses because her father hated the color of the Union army and did not want his daughters clad in its hue in his presence.
I keep hearing from the Charlottesville protesters on the news, our president, and various friends and family on social media that the events of the past weekend were about preserving heritage. The Confederacy is in fact a part of my heritage, so I have as much right as anyone to cling to the monuments that pay homage to that heritage. However, I fervently believe that they should each be removed from their places of honor. Here’s why.
The men honored in Confederate memorials are not patriots of our country (like George Washington). In fact, they fought our country and were enemies of the United States in the deadliest war of our history. And although I’ve heard it argued my whole life that their cause was about more than just slavery, the fact that slavery was any part of their cause makes it completely unjustifiable. They were a nation and a military fighting to maintain a lifestyle made possible by the hard work of the humans they owned.
When I think of the Confederate veteran in my family tree, I don’t feel pride. Instead, I feel mostly sad, sad that my family was shaped by and perpetuated a culture that devalued humans so severely and sad that this fact led my ancestor to fight for such a lousy cause.
And while this sadness is plenty of reason for me to want to see these memorials disappear from our capitals and college campuses, it is far more important they be removed out of respect for our Black countrymen and women. If the men memorialized in these statues had won their war, the great-great grandfathers of my Black peers would not have been emancipated from slavery. How can we possibly continue to place the Confederacy on a pedestal and still look our Black neighbors in the eyes?
Counter-protesting white supremacists and Nazis who are protesting the removal of these monuments is not “alt-left.” The tag “alt” suggests fringe movements. In a country where all people are created equal, there is nothing fringe about calling out racism and bigotry.
My family history in the Confederacy is in many ways a burden. I must bear the fact that I come from people who chose the wrong side when they were faced with their generation’s battle between good and evil. I do not want my descendants to feel burdened by my actions today. That is why, despite not wanting to jump into these conversations, I find myself writing this post. By speaking out against racism today, those of us whose ancestors fought to preserve slavery can participate in God's work of redemption in this horribly broken world.