Monuments impact past, present, future

Published 9:27 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I write this letter out of reluctant hope and constant pain. I am reluctantly hopeful the perspective set forth in this letter will be heard. I am greatly pained because history tells me that it will not be heard. Still, I write because the issue is both important and urgent. I am writing about the issue of monuments on public property. Some say monuments are just big statues or names on buildings, streets, roads, bridges and public places and do not really matter.

Therefore, we should just leave monuments alone. I pray to differ. Monuments matter a whole lot because they impact past, present and future generations. We just went through an intense struggle in the Alabama Legislature over monuments.

First, allow me to make the point that monuments are not history; they are symbols of somebody’s feelings about a particular historical person or event. If you are white, I want you to imagine just for a brief moment, that your own children are black. Imagine your black children being told day after day to emulate Jeff Davis or Robert E. Lee or Nathan Bedford Forrest or Stonewall Jackson. They will see or hear the names many times a day on and at their schools. The message of each encounter is that these are great men that these children should emulate. Now, let your mind recall that the fore parents of these black children were bound in the worst form of human slavery known to human kind.

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Recall further that these men were fighting to keep their fore parents bound in that oppressive slavery. Now, understand that these monuments tell these black children that this is what they should be like when they grow up.

Now, make the switch and imagine your children are white. Do you really want your children to grow up to enslave black people?

All of the aforementioned men and others honored with such monuments were white supremacists. They believed that white people were supremely superior to black people. They strongly believed black people were not only of a lower class but a lower species. They believed black people were subhuman. If you don’t believe me, check out the U.S. Supreme Court Dred Scott ruling. It specifically held that black people were considered “subhuman.” Do we really want our children to grow up to be white supremacists thinking that black people are subhuman? That’s really what these monuments on public property say to our children.

All of these men and others lifted high by such monuments would be called traitors today if they waged war on the United States of America. More than 600,000 human beings died in the Civil War. Do we really want to tell our children that all these lives lost to enslave other people was a great thing? That’s the message these monuments send day after day after day.

With monuments of Nathan Bedford Forrest, we not only say to our children that waging war against the United States of America is noble, but we also say that the Ku Klux Klan that terrorized the lives of black people for 100 years is noble.

Nathan Bedford Forrest built the Klan into a national power. More than 4,000 African Americans were publically lynched with nothing ever done about it. Too often, local and state officials joined in the lynching.

What the klan and others did was state-sanctioned terrorism because neither local, state nor federal governments did anything to prevent the lynching or punish the lynchers. Every monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest lifts state-sanctioned terrorism.