About those statues….

  We all have memories of being “put in our place” by people who thought they were better and smarter. I was 12, on my first day at a new school. The cafeteria attendant sneaked up behind me, held up my fork and said loudly: “This is a dinner fork, Marie-Anne, not a pitchfork!” Her message rang loud and clear: I came from a family with no university education, and should remember the mud clinging to my clogs. The humiliation still stings, decades later and on a new continent.

  I am trying to imagine how much more painful it must be for black people to face reminders of a culture in which their ancestors were thought to be less than human – in fact, no better than cattle to be bought and sold at will. Slavery was evil, and its long shadow is still evident today in the wealth and education gaps – as well as the gap in access to health care – between the white and the black communities.

  I think Confederate statues should be taken down after a national discussion. I understand the anger that leads to their defacement, but think it is both dangerous and unproductive. We often make the mistake of judging people of the past by today’s criteria.  I do not believe that supporters of the Confederacy were all evil. Had I been a Southern woman in 1861, reading newspapers out of Richmond, would I have risen against slavery or would I have stood with my neighbors? Would I have feared the loss of the life I knew or stepped forward and declared that slaves should be freed immediately?

  In 2020, the time has come for a reckoning. If your ancestors fought for the Confederacy, you should be able to honor their memory. But please do not do so in ways that humiliate others. The Battle Flag of the Confederacy has to be put away because it is hurtful, because it is bad for all of us, because it stands in the way of a more perfect union. We banned Nazi symbols after WWII because they stood for an ideology that claimed the superiority of the Aryan race and therefore set out to eliminate or subjugate all other races and creeds. We understand how painful it is for Jews or families of WWII combatants to see swastikas. We owe our black brothers and sisters the same understanding, the same respect, which is why the statues and flag must go from public sight. And, please, let’s stop pretending that “Black Lives Matter” means “no other lives matter”. “Mattering”, like love, does not exist in finite amounts. Let us love more.

Marie-Anne wrote this post, which was published in the Rockwall County Herald-Banner, June 3 2020 edition.

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