Following the violence in Charlottesville, the mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray, announced that he plans to remove the confederate statues from our city. Replies to his Facebook post included anger, outrage, and disbelief. People commented, “so you’re giving into those liberals?”, “these monuments are a teaching tool”, and “we need the history to better the future.”
First of all, I want you to know that I hear you. We do indeed need history to better our future. Without it, we end up making fools of ourselves repeatedly. However, I have to ask you to reevaluate this idea that the monuments are the best way of teaching this.
Imagine you live in the same town as Pedro López, better known as “The Monster of Andes”. Pedro targeted girls between the ages of 8 and 12, raped them, and killed them. Now, imagine after his disappearance, the school board decided on an incentive to protect young girls. As part of the program, they erect a statue to Pedro, carving a sweet, evil smile on his stone lips. Every day, your baby girl passes under his lifeless smile on the way to school, terrified into depression, and later, suicide.
This seems like an extreme example. No parent would support a statue of a rapist. Right? I mean, imagine if it had been your baby girl. And what would the inscriptions say anyway? “Pedro López, in all his glory. Child rapist and pervert. Erected here as a history lessons to girls everywhere. Carry pepper spray.”
How foolish and absurd. Fear does not teach history. Fear only ruins lives. How can we, in good conscience, condone monuments of our worst parts of history? Can you condone a statue of Hitler in your pubic parks? Why do we assume that by glorifying our enemies, we somehow make the world a better place? Why is hailing a statue representing slavery and racism OK? How is this a history lesson?
What is my point? Friends, if the hate is still happening, you are no longer standing behind history. You are standing behind hate, bigotry, and violence. You are supporting the people who brandished confederate and nazi flags in the streets of Charlottesville, all while claiming that white is better than black or red or brown or yellow. You support the driver who killed a young counter protester in the name of Hitler.
In the south, many will grow up believing that the confederate flag represents more than slavery, that it represents independence of states. But if it drives you to become part of an angry mob in the streets, is it worth fighting for? Is a flag really more important than human life?
Yes, we need history. We need to tell the horrors of our past. We need every child in American to read the repulsive accounts of the things that happened in our early years. This is how you teach history, and this is how you make sure it does not happen again–not through erected statues of the men who embodied fear, oppression, and violence.
This is such a riveting time for me to be a female journalist and a young person in general. For years, we have read about the violence during the civil rights movement. As a child, I remember thinking that all that had to be done to settle our country had been done, and the life of a millennial would be resolved to television and VR. This childhood idea proved increasingly foolhardier. As I grew older, more began to happen that assured me that the most intense activism belongs to my generation. I’ve never been more scared or prouder to be a millennial. I encourage all millennials everywhere to stay woke! Look around at your city—what’s happening? Worse, what is it hiding behind?
In the past year, Ruqia Hassan, a young Syrian Independent journalist who wrote under the pseudonym Nissan Ibrahim, was murdered by ISIS because she was a woman. Several journalists were arrested and shot at while on the job filming protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Reporting the news was labeled as “inciting a riot”. And over the weekend, Heather Heyer died fighting Nazis on American soil in 2017. In the face of bigotry, hate, and violence, it was millennials who stood up, said NO, and died fighting for what we believe in. Let’s not be afraid to join their ranks. However broken, this is the country we’ve been left by the generations before us. Now let’s change it.
Rant over. #staywoke