by Jessee Perry
Regarding confederate monuments, I've had my own personal beliefs on what should be done with them. My concern has been that if we get rid of them, does it erase the bad history and let people forget about our horrific past and open the door for history to repeat itself? That said, I am a white female so I do not have the same experience or feeling as a person of color does when looking at confederate monuments. I have not felt the oppression nor have I experienced the racism against me personally. But that does not mean I can't see how it impacts my friends. Instead of waving my opinion out there, I have asked my friends of color their opinions to gain some understanding of their perspective. I have shared my opinions with them and had a frank discussions to understand their objections. At the end of all of these conversations, I drew the conclusion that as a white ally, it is more important to support voices of people of color than wave my opinion in people's faces. After seeing events unfold this weekend, I believe this even more strongly. If those monuments make my friends of color feel even the slightest bit unwelcome or afraid for their lives... they need to come down. There is no amount of alleged "heritage" that is more important than the safety of humans.
The reality is, the horrific history is not our past. It is our present. There are sayings about evil hiding in the shadows and in plain sight. In Charlottesville last weekend, pure evil and hate came out in the open and vomited its ideology everywhere. One person died, many were injured, and an uncountable number of people were harmed mentally and emotionally. People can no longer claim that Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and Nazis are a relic of the past that went extinct over the years. They are alive and well today standing strong with the alt-right and other white supremacists. No one can close their eyes and pretend they aren't there. The boogie man exists. When we look at these monuments, we have to remember the fear, hurt, and trauma from this past weekend. Many of us have the privilege of walking down Monument Avenue and not giving a second thought to the white supremacists who lurk in the shadows. In 2017, conditions for supremacists are comfortable to where they can move out of the shadows and walk among us. Leaving the monuments contributes to the comfortable climate that welcomes them and increases dangerous conditions for people we care about.
In the United States Constitution, Article 1 Section 8 says it is the legislative branch's job to "provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States." In the Commonwealth of Virginia's constitution, section 3 says the "government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community." In the Richmond City Charter, section 2.04 says the city has power "for the preservation of the safety, health, peace, good order, comfort, convenience, morals and welfare of its inhabitants." In all levels of government, there are provisions that it is the government's duty to provide safety for the people. Adding "context" does not make my friends of color feel safer. Adding "context" perpetuates the comfortable space that has been made for white supremacists. Adding "context" is a political non-answer by someone seeking higher office in a state that has a strong right wing voting contingent. Adding "context" is not doing the job you were elected to do.
Take down the monuments.