What We Tell Ourselves: Commemorating the Hate and Ignorance of Long Ago


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When we are in a car accident, and hit a car ahead of us from the rear, sometimes our first line of defense is to blame the other driver. “Why’d you stop short?” we ask. Deep down inside of us, we know that is is really our own fault. We tell ourselves anything to feel better about our actions, but we know that whenever a driver hits another driver from behind, that driver is at fault. Why drive so closely, pay attention to what’s ahead of you, eyes on the road, no texting while driving. The best defense is a good offense. So, we want to blame someone else for our mistakes and poor judgment. The worst part of that is that, until the damage is repaired,  every time we look at our car’s dents, we are given reminders of that fateful accident. And it hurts-us and the other driver!

Hate, tied to slavery, is a result of poor judgment and total disregard for the lives of the ‘other’, and racism emerged from that disregard. Aware of the past acts and crimes against humanity, it becomes far easier on the conscience to justify those crimes, normalize them and blame the victim. What happens after those practices cease to be the ‘normal’ accepted practice or way of life? Everyone is lost in a state of confusion. Some are elated for emancipation and freedom of will, while others are relatively dumbfounded, lost and resentful-confused.

When they see one another, emotions surface. You serve as a reminder of past trauma, and they serve as a reminder of past privilege and entitlement. There is a difference between the two. Your privilege and entitlement remains nonetheless, while they are beginning to navigate life with nothing more than a few trinkets, and clothes on their backs, often with no shoes on their feet. You feel a sense of loss and they are lost.

As adjustments are made, each has time to reflect on their past lives. Not all was great. There was trauma for almost all, and the rest may simply have sublimated their trauma. Relatively speaking, times are hard for both sides. Years pass by and some perpetrators pass away. You revere them as nostalgic memories emerge. The other side is relieved that these persons and the entire institution has crumbled.  Memories still exist in the hearts and minds of the descendants of the emancipated tribes. The elderly have a long history of oral story-telling. Thus, they have documented their history by passing along stories. There are many unpleasant ones told.

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Even more years later, they realize that their histories aren’t told or taught or remembered by anyone anywhere else. It is as though their past was a collectively bad dream…for them. No one learns about their pain, hurt and their strengths to build a country, it’s wealth, and infrastructure, but no one knows that. They are still not legitimized, acknowledged, respected or valued. In fact, they are still fighting for true freedom and equality and justice.

Instead, monuments to that awful history are erected, serving as reminders that one must never forget thy place in society. The other side still refuses to let go and acknowledge the pain they caused or allowed to be inflicted upon other humans. There isn’t ever an honest conversation about it, let alone reconciliation. Fast forward into the present, there are reminders of times past, and symbols commemorative of individuals of groups who participated, sanctioned or upheld those inhumane practices strewn across the country in public places.

All of us who oppose and protest the celebratory implications of the era of slavery in America have equal and open access to these figures, what they stood for and we also understand the message it sends to others on a deep level. These persons and their symbols of loyalty to now debunked myths and narratives about society and its norms must not be permitted to flaunt themselves before those groups directly affected by their rhetoric and beliefs. Being subjected to the deeds and actions of these persons is bad. To be reminded of it is cruel and re-traumatizing.

Should there be descendants of these individuals and associated symbolism have every right to continue to love, honor and revere these people-just not at the expense of a wiser public. Of particular concern, is the continued ignorance of children and adults who pass by these monuments without  knowledge of the historical significance of the iconic figures. If we allow these statues to exist in the public eye and viewed by children on their way to and from school and home, then we must teach about these figures in those schools children attend-honestly.

two gray and brown statues
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You say let the people or the public decide the fate of these erected monuments. If so, then it is but only American to tell the full stories of these people and the reasons they deserve a place in their public spaces.We have a clear responsibility to the people, every person, to provide complete narratives; nothing white-washed or watered-down. Children, during that dark past, were taught the ideologies these persons upheld and public education reinforced those teachings. That is how we arrived at this divisive place in our evolution as a democratic nation.

Undoing the doctrines begins with an inclusive curriculum, an honest and full historical referencing, and it must begin as soon as a child enters the realm of public education. Why the debates about the monuments and statues placed across the country-the South in particular? Because half of a story does not make for the truth, and the things we tell ourselves and each other, we are also telling children. To become better, we must demonstrate our maturity and do better. Imagine, in a tech driven society, the point when children must learn the truths by themselves-on their own. What will they think of us then. We persisted to plants seeds of lies to our own children. What will you do when your child comes home with identifiable ‘diversity’ on their arms? Love knows no racial boundaries.-

By the way, when was the last time that an American with roots in this country that extend a few generations back, researched their ancestry? The hate that is shared then becomes self-hatred, too! Remember, just one drop! I encourage every one of us to trace our ancestry! Maybe the hate will dissipate and then become one love.

Watch and read!

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