During the protests in many cities throughout the United States, protestors have actively worked to pull down and break up monuments of confederate generals, slave owners, Christopher Columbus and more, because these statues are icons of this country’s history of colonialism, and racism. Black Americans and people of color can no longer wait for our country or its leaders to dismantle statues which glorify what has been an insulting and painful past for them. For instance, Caroline Randell Williams, in a recent essay for the New York Times states, “The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals?” Williams asks a good question. If any conscientious individual takes a trip south to explore Civil War battles sites, the creepiness, yes, creepiness, of seeing statues of confederate generals smacks one in the face.
Recently, a rally at Mt Rushmore was held on the 4th of July by our current president who made a mockery of the protesters’ pain about monuments which honor confederate generals and slaveholders. Media coverage, ironically, failed to show coverage or footage of the incomplete statue of Crazy Horse at Mt. Rushmore, nor did it remind viewers of the fact that the Badlands served as a sacred area to the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne people for centuries. Hence, this provides another example of “forgetfulness” in the media’s coverage regarding the complex cultural and racial make-up of our country’s history, and current make-up.
Several young women in Detroit sought to remind people of it by posing for a picture in full Native dress on a site that used to have a statue of Christopher Columbus and posting it on Facebook.Their action dares people to re-imagine their views of statues and of who ought to be honored by history and its citizens. Recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, tweeted a similar idea: “People really need to ask themselves why their communities chose to erect statues to slaveholders instead of abolitionists.” Sadly, respect for all people, and all cultures remains as a monumental challenge for the United States. It was not until the 1990s that the State of Virginia honored and mounted a statue of Arthur Ashe, a Black tennis player, on Monument Row in Richmond, Virginia. As recently as July 5, 2020, a statue of Frederick Douglass was vandalized in Rochester, New York. On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave his speech, “What to the Slave Is, the Fourth of July”. As of the following Monday, police had not determined who might have vandalized the statue. The vandalism of Douglass’ statue may point to a “payback” mentality or an underlying lack of respect.
From a larger perspective for the whole country, especially, for those who complain about honoring white culture the question still needs to be reflected upon in a more empathetic way for everyone. Why should one-sided honoring of white slave holders or confederate generals remain as the utmost value to United States history? Perhaps, the state of Virginia could consider creating and mounting a statue of, Robert Pleasants, a wealthy white Quaker turned abolitionist who founded The Virginia Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes and Others, Unlawfully Held in Bondage, and Other Humane Purposes. This organization operated as an anti-slavery organization from 1790 to 1804.
Also, if one wants to honor white culture, why not honor the Freedom Riders and mount a statue of them? Or why not mount a statue of Lyndon B. Johnson, the president who helped pass and sign the Civil Rights Act? Perhaps, the honor needs to be placed on those who fought for equality and justice for all people. The honor needs to be given to those who recognized the value of this country’s diversity, and all the gifts that many people of color along with white people have contributed to our country. A re-imagining of the United States’ monuments continues to be this country’s challenge. -Cathy Cunningham, I.G.E Volunteer
Recognizing White Privilege
I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemJean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)
It’s important to actually recognize that being able to do all these things is a privilege that everyone should have, regardless of the color of their skin.
*I copied and pasted this … please do the same on facebook or elsewhere.
Words are not enough. Action is needed to dismantle the systemic racism that plagues our country and keeps resulting in the abuse and death of innocent people. I stand with my friends of color and will be an advocate and warrior to protect all humans. #BlackLivesMatter #Solidarity #SpeakUp