To Be Equal: Confederate Monuments and Symbols Are Advertisements for a Product No One Wants Anymore. #TakeEmDown, NOW.
“The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered. As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history. Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause.”
—New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu upon removal of the city’s last remaining Confederate monuments, 2017
Mississippi’s decision this week to eliminate a Confederate symbol from its state flag is the culmination of more than 40 years of activism, and a single step in the ongoing effort to eliminate white supremacist imagery and monuments from our public spaces.
It seems at last that we have the will, as a nation, to confront the ugly truth about these monuments built as symbols of resistance to racial equality. As long as they remain in places of honor, they remain symbols of resistance to racial equality.
More than 1,500 public monuments and memorials to the Confederacy remain in the United States, in 31 states plus the District of Columbia—far exceeding the 11 Confederate states. Almost none of these monuments or memorials were created in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, and almost none were intended to memorialize the dead. There were two huge spikes in construction: in the early 1900s, after Plessy v. Ferguson unleashed the terroristic system of Jim Crow, and then again in the 1950s and 1960s as the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement gained traction.
The current Mississippi flag was adopted 30 years after the end of the Civil War. The state’s Civil War-era flag didn’t even feature Confederate imagery.
The notion of “erasing history” is the hollowest of defenses. The truth is, the reality of Black voices finally being heard is an unsettling development for people so accustomed to white privilege they can scarcely discern its very presence.
What respect for history really means is reckoning with the horror of two and a half centuries of chattel slavery and another century of the institutionalized terrorism known as Jim Crow.
The Cult of the Lost Cause, which draped the atrocities of the Confederacy in a gauzy lie about states’ rights, infects our public discourse even today. The state of Texas finally voted in 2018 to teach that slavery was the central issue of the Civil War.
The illusion that Confederate memorials are anything but a celebration of white supremacy collapses under the slightest scrutiny. Take, for example the 1913 dedication of a Confederate monument at the University of North Carolina, later nicknamed “Silent Sam:” University trustee Julian Carr urged the audience to devote themselves to the maintenance of white supremacy with the same vigor that their Confederate ancestors had defended slavery. He praised Confederate soldiers for their defense “of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years after the war” when “their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South.” These four years refer to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, which Carr supported. He then boasted that “one hundred yards from where we stand, I horsewhipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds because she had maligned and insulted a Southern lady.”
Students pulled the statue from its pedestal in 2018.
Confederate statues in public spaces, near government buildings—especially in front of court houses, where people go to seek justice—are a form of racial intimidation. They are meant to assure those who approach: “white supremacy reigns here.” If we want to dispense with white supremacy, we must dispense with its signifiers. They advertise a product no one wants any more.
In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham called on the nation to “strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.” More than a century and a half later, we are still striving to bind up the nation’s wounds.
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ChildWatch: A Glory Glory Hallelujah Time?!
Is our long-awaited real United States of America baby about to be born?! The one our slave ancestors, grandparents, parents and community co-parents died and struggled for—a real United States of America—with liberty and justice for all?
It’s way past time to clarify which God we truly trust in our nation—the god of our money, currency and American capitalism as we know it—or the God of our Native American ancestors, enslaved ancestors, African and African-American ancestors, civil rights martyrs and mothers and fathers who taught us to love one another—not enslave, exploit, abuse, lynch, segregate or disrespect one another. Isn’t it time to stop using God as a logo on our currency and follow the true God of our authentic faiths? And isn’t it past time to celebrate and protect the sanctity of all human beings oppressed by genocide, slavery and racial discrimination for any reason everywhere?
I love Mississippi poet Margaret Walker’s great poem “For My People.” I think of all the people of every race, color and faith who have struggled to birth and build a real United States of America.
For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
dragging along never gaining never reaping never
knowing and never understanding;
For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss
Choomby and hair and company;
For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
people who and the places where and the days when, in
memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
were black and poor and small and different and nobody
cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;
For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
marry their playmates and bear children and then die
of consumption and anemia and lynching;
For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
people’s pockets needing bread and shoes and milk and
land and money and something—something all our own;
For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;
For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
the dark of churches and schools and clubs and
societies, associations and councils and committees and
conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
false prophet and holy believer;
For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
rise and take control.
From This is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press), copyright ©1989 Margaret Walker Alexander. Used with permission.
—July 2, 2020
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Congressman Brown Praises Passage of His Bipartisan Provision to Redesignate Military Bases and Infrastructure Honoring Confederate Leaders in NDAA
WASHINGTON (July 1, 2020)—Congressman Anthony Brown (MD-04), praised the passage of his FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act amendment to establish a firm process to rename military bases and infrastructure honoring leaders of the Confederacy within one year. The amendment, co-led with fellow veteran Congressman Don Bacon (NE-02), and was adopted by a vote of 33-23.
The amendment would require the Secretary of Defense to identify bases and infrastructure (buildings, ranges, roads, etc.) currently named for individuals who served in the political or military leadership of the Confederacy and submit a report to Congress within 60 days of enactment. The amendment recommends the Department consider for new designations; Medal of Honor recipients, combat heroes, trailblazing troops from minority groups or individuals with links to the community where the base is located.
“Every day, Black soldiers work, train and live on bases named after men who fought to keep them in bondage. The cornerstone of the Confederacy was the preservation of slavery, white supremacy and the continued oppression of Black Americans. Renaming bases that honor these leaders is not erasing history, but acknowledging that the cause they fought for was unjust and a scar on this country. The United States military has many who should be honored with designations, those who betrayed their country do not deserve that distinction,” said Congressman Anthony Brown. “I want to thank my colleagues, particularly Congressman Don Bacon for their support of this important amendment.”
The process that will be used to rename each installation, facility, or infrastructure will be set by the Secretary of Defense and secretaries of the military departments which could include establishing advisory panels with military and local stakeholders, historians and civil rights leaders.
The U.S. Army currently has 10 bases and facilities named after leaders of the Confederacy. Another amendment by Congressman Brown to prohibit the display of the Confederate flag on Department of Defense property and across military branches passed committee markup earlier today.
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