Confederate monuments: Time to get the story straight

At our worst, Americans rationalize intolerance, xenophobia and the shooting of unarmed African-Americans – young, old, male and female.

At our best, Americans show resilience in times of crisis and tragedy. Recent core-shaking events include Hurricane Harvey, September 11, Sandy Hook, Pulse, Mother Emanuel in Charleston, and Charlottesville. In response, books have been authored, movies produced and monuments erected to memorialize and remember such events and people.

Collectively, these accounts write history. An African proverb states, “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

Thus, the polarization over Confederate monuments and battle flags reflecting representations of heritage, pride, hate or succession, acts of patriotism or treason is understandable. However, the toppling of Confederate monuments throughout the nation and in Durham says it’s time for a new story to be told.

It is time to tell the story that “Southern heritage” – cuisine, fashion, agriculture, music, language and nearly every other aspect – either largely derives from or is influenced by the continent of Africa.

It’s time to tell the story that the Civil War was fought to sustain the absolute subjugation of African people and the generational privilege it afforded to the people of European descent.

It’s time to tell the story that the majority of the Confederate monuments were erected over 30 years after the Civil War (1924 in Durham) as homage to Jim Crow segregation and opposition to the civil rights movement.

It’s time to tell the story that the men in gray should be reviled not revered, as this is the United States of America – not the United States of the Confederacy.

It’s time to tell the story that even General Robert E. Lee wanted to “obliterate the marks of civil strife, and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered."

It’s time to tell the story that according to Article Three - Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the states of the Confederacy and its sympathizers committed acts of treason and thus were traitors.

There is a saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” But out of sight does not mean out of heart. Toppling or removing statues will not deter the hate-filled rhetoric and acts of the “alt-right” white supremacists, and others.

Instead, use your voice and votes to ensure that the true history is told. Petition government officials to rename cities, military bases, schools, buildings, and streets. Advocate to update textbooks, commission documentaries, and erect markers alongside the Confederate monuments that state “Let us never forget that the Confederates were traitors who committed acts of treason against the Union – now the United States of America – and its founding principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity.”

"It is rather for us to be here, dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863).

Remember, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” (George Santayana)

Submitted by Kendra Pressley for the African-American Caucus of Durham County-NC Democratic Party