By: Zach Fulwood
Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! For some reason, that’s the sound I hear each time I see a Confederate statue being removed from its post. Surely these statues wouldn’t be removed without a fight or at least some “peaceful” protests. Those “peaceful”, tiki torch carrying, “Jews will not replace us” chanting protests however, turned deadly in Charlottesvile, Virginia with the death of Heather Heyer. As unfortunate as that was, President Trump found it more important to sarcastically suggest that monuments of former Presidents’ George Washington and Thomas Jefferson be taken down next because of their questionable past involvement with slavery. Although insensitive coming from the President, the conversation around the importance of these Confederate statues has remained at the forefront. We can sit here and go back and forth about the removal of statues that no one was probably going out of their way to go and see anyway. However, I can’t help but wonder if we’re focusing on the wrong thing.
Watching these statues being taken down and seeing all of the hatred being directed at those who want to see a change in the way America celebrates its past is disheartening to say the least. No one deserves to lose their life over protesting a statue. While these statues represent patriotism (I guess) to some, it also represents an ugly truth that this country has yet to fully address and that’s the bigger problem. Sure, we have a desegregated society, a monument dedicated to Dr. King, and even have an entire month dedicated to recognizing Black history but somehow the conversation about race and the history of slavery in this country still seems muddled.
As a society, we talk about slavery but only as a passing thought. We know it happened and hate that it happened but because it was so long ago, there’s no real need to dwell on it or continue addressing it. We talk about race still being an issue but there’s no need to worry about it too much because that’s only a small portion of society. After all, no one could possibly be racist after 1968 right? “Jews will not replace us” isn’t racist at all.
Obviously that’s false and racism very much still exists within our society whether people choose to realize it or not. But if that’s the case, why does it seem like we are still apprehensive about the topic of race? When we do choose to talk about race, it often centers around how President Lincoln freed slaves in 1863 and how Dr.King gave his life for equality amongst all men and women with a splash of Harriet Tubman and affirmative action being thrown in for nuance. That’s all well and good but it’s hardly painting an accurate picture of what racism has done to this country and how it still exists today.
We talk about slavery but don’t talk about how poor the living conditions were and how food rations with very little nutritional value were given to slaves every Saturday. We talk about slaves being freed but neglect to talk about how over 20,000 freed slaves were killed in a concentration camp in Mississippi called the Devil’s Punch Bowl. We talk about how Black people need to get together and build wealth but rarely discuss what happened in 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma when Black Wall Street went up in flames.
We can talk about these statues needing to come down because of the negative history they represent until we’re blue in the face. Whether they come down or not is irrelevant to me. These statues don’t do anything to me and honestly, I didn’t know most of them existed in the first place. The Confederate statues mean absolutely nothing to me personally so pardon me if I don’t share your outrage of the existence of them. I care about the truth being told and not sugarcoated. What good is it going to do if these statues come down and kids are still being taught the same information about race and slavery for 28 days in February (not including snow days) during Black History month? Sure, they can grow up and not see racist statues and flags being hoisted in the air but their knowledge of what was will remain same. I’m not interested in changing history but I am interested in having honest conversations about it.
I get the racial significance of these statues and how the placement of them in front of government buildings and courthouses can serve as intimidation for any minority seeking justice in this country but statue or no statue, there’s still so much work that needs to be done. But hey, maybe it’s easier to believe you’re not in a racist society if you’re not taught what a racist society looks like.