Pacify – [pas–uh-fahy] ,
In the last few weeks, the spotlight on America’s white supremacy has been magnified tenfold with the events at Charlottesville, Virginia. What began as a rally of Neo-Nazis and different factions of the far right movement now known as the “Alt-Right”, complaining of America’s treatment of the white man, and proclaiming this to be a time to “return to what the U.S. is supposed to be”, has morphed into a battle of free-speech, anti-fascism, racism, and where America is headed to. The response from the White House has been typically unsympathetic towards anyone that is not white, conservative, and believes racism/white supremacy is a problem. Even with the untimely death of Heather Heyer, the protester in Charlottesville who was killed when struck by a vehicle driven by a white supremacist, the complete denouncing of the Alt-Right and its’ band of bigoted thugs has not happened. However, what has taken place is the removal of a few confederate statues.
In the aftermath of the Charlottesville rally, Confederate statues in Baltimore, Maryland, Gainesville, Florida, and Durham, North Carolina were taken down. People angered over President Donald Trump’s coddling of white supremacists and wanting instant gratification of justice took to the streets demanding several confederate statues be removed, in a misguided way to fight the system of racism. News outlets were bombarded with debates of pundits over why they should be taken down and why they should not be. Shouts of “preserving heritage” and “these monuments foster a belief that Black people should be in chains” were heard throughout the nation. I sat back and found it very interesting that we would be directing our attention towards an inanimate object instead of focusing our energy towards changing laws and better the playing field for non-white people. It’s as if the government saw this as an easy way to appease us. I then thought about Charleston, South Carolina.
In 2015, white supremacist terrorist Dylan Storm Roof entered the historical Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and killed nine people. Hoping to start a race war, Roof murdered the church parishioners because of his hatred towards Blacks and because he felt “we have no skinheads, no KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet.” Many politicians condemned the attack, and then-President Barack Obama visited Emanuel, sang Negro spirituals and spoke not about racism, but of gun control, and a confederate flag came down. No talk about new legislation to fight racism/white supremacy, no serious discussions about the radicalization of white males, or any of the inequalities that make life difficult for African Americans. Just a confederate flag being removed in South Carolina.
Taking these statues down in my opinion is nothing but pacification. We are making a big deal about the removal of the monuments because a young woman was killed by a white supremacist. A young white woman. We have to ask ourselves, “Is this really the fight we should be taking on?
I’m not against removing these racist statues down permanently. But if we are going to do this, let’s take them all down – across country. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are over 1500 confederate place names and public symbols in the United States. We have a lot of ground to cover! After that is done, will we tackle the confederate state holidays in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida? These states still give employees days off celebrating confederate soldiers! How about directing our attention towards the 10 military bases named in honor of confederate leaders? Can you imagine how a Black solider feels if he or she is serving at Ft. Bragg named after the famed general? While we are at it, let’s re-frame what the presidents were – slave trading racist rapists who used Black bodies as a way of currency. Let’s rewrite the history books, stop honoring these horrific men at all costs. Finally, let’s remove these faces from Mt Rushmore. If we are against racism/white supremacy, then this should be no problem right?
I am not trying to deride anyone who feels these monuments need to be taken down. They do, but this is just a small symptom of a much bigger problem. The fact that the United States has hundreds of statues, military bases, and 10 state holidays named in honor of the confederacy is an issue. This means racism is not only seen as not a problem, but normalized. This isn’t the KKK, Alt-Right, or any other racist organization taunting non-white people. This is part of systemic racism. The fact that many whites refused to see why the Rebel flag is offensive to Black and other non-white people points to racism being sewn into the fabric of this country (pun intended). We must not be appeased by the local and state government’s removal of a statue to quell our uprising. Taking down a monument will not stop racism. Let’s push for new hate crime legislation. Let’s keep the pressure on media companies that host websites, music, and film that promote racism (thank you Apple, Google, and Amazon for being late to the party). Let’s boycott music venues that allow racist bands to perform. Let’s make a database of the cowardly politicians that will not address the white supremacy in your area. If your council person, supervisor, sheriff, or mayor feels that having a rally of hate is free speech and not terrorism, vote them out! It is time for us to start holding companies and our elected officials accountable. That is when I believe real change will start to happen.
I will not be excited by a Robert E Lee statue being toppled. Let me know when children and all people living in Flint can drink clean water. Let me know when undocumented families can stop looking over their shoulders for ICE agents ready to deport them. Or how about we start getting consistent convictions of police killing unarmed Black men. When we start to make progress on those, then I will consider the statues something to get excited about.