A while back, I started a blog over at Medium.com. I didn’t do too much with it for a long time, mostly because of my lack of time-management. Recently, though, I’ve started posting there, to expand my reach. It’s still fairly new, but I’ve got a few posts up – below is my latest entry. Check it out if you get a chance.
What’s Next? What We Do After The Statues and Monuments Come Down.
I lived in New Jersey up until I was fifteen-years-old, when my stepfather moved our family to Virginia and I experienced the first culture shock of my life. Rife with tobacco farms, dilapidated farmhouses and tractors as road vehicles, this was the first culture shock of my life. The most difficult thing for me to adjust to, though, was the attitude — I was suddenly ‘colored’ instead of Latina, the bars and stripes were a legitimate expression of Southern Pride and Confederate heroes were immortalized in bronze and metal. (Also, my neighbor was a Klansman, but that’s another story.) I spent two years there before determining I was moving as far away from the South as I could get.
Well, fast forward two decades, and I am now a long-time resident of North Carolina. It’s my home. And while the attitude has changed some due to the influx of Northerners (or Yankees) and the passage of time, some things to some people have not changed: I am still ‘colored’, the bars and stripes are still symbolic of the Southern way-of-life and those heroes of the South are still standing…
Except for one in Durham, which is about forty-five minutes from where I live. While I have my opinion about the way it was removed, I’m not sad to see it go. I do believe we need to honestly record history and commemorate it as appropriate, but if these monuments are celebrating an era in history marked by war and bloodshed, where brother fought against brother and half the nation seceded because they wanted to maintain their way of life (which included enslaving men, women and children all because of the color of their skin), and for some, still allows them their nationalistic pride, then they don’t need to be erected anywhere but a museum.
And I don’t think I am not the only person who feels this way. In last week alone, thirteen statues have been removed and countless others have been considered for removal…a step forward, I believe, towards healing the wounds of racism still gaping in this great country. I have a question though: What do we do from here? Once those statues come down, what happens next?
We must be realistic enough to understand the removal of these monuments will not automatically change the mindsets and attitudes that have been ingrained into our culture. If anything, it will probably open the door to more fighting, more racism. So what do we do? How do we move forward into a future free from discrimination and hate? Where racism is a thing of the past and we can fulfill the destiny and calling of this great nation as one of freedom and inclusivity?
We make peace with our past.
When we experience a traumatic event and are broken as individuals following an assault or abuse, healing is achieved through the support of family and friends and the assistance of professionals. But for all the strides we’ve made since the Reconstruction, discussions of slavery and reparation often end with, ‘Get over it.’ But there is no closure, no healing with that. We need to talk about what happened so we can release it and move forward.
Yes, even 150 years after the fact…not because we’ve been directly affected by slavery; or we’re directly responsible for it. But because this hate has seeped into the foundation of our culture. It’s not new, just the most recent incarnation of it. And because we’ve been so eager to distance ourselves from the sins of our fathers, we’ve pushed the issues under the rug and washed our hands of it. The Bible talks about the iniquities of the fathers being visited on the sons…well, here we are: 2017 and what our forefathers wouldn’t deal with, we are left to live with — protests, Neo-Nazis, police shootings, BLM, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, bullying, abuse, slavery (still!), immigration discrimination, et al and etc.
If we’re to make peace with a past as horrific as ours, we need to stop telling each other to, ‘Get over it.’ We need to listen to each other instead and acknowledge that even though our experiences are different, none are any less valid. Life is not a competition. Our pains are not a competition. We are all in this together; and if we are going to truly make this country great (continually, again or for the first time, it’s up for debate), then we need to deal with what was and start fresh. The wound will bleed again, and it may hurt for a time, but when it heals — correctly this time — we will find a foundation of love that will unite us.