For years I have asked several Nashvillians if they knew that a bust of Nathan Belford Forrest was on exhibit on the right wall before entering the room where the state legislators meet. I was appalled when I first saw the bust in the early ‘80s and couldn’t understand why they would allow a bust of the first Grand Wizard of the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) in the state capital building. I saw it as an affront and a sign of disrespect to African Americans and tried to understand why none of the elected legislators demanded the removal of the bust. I find it hard to believe no one was knowledgeable about what this man represented as the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, a racist White supremacy group that emerged after the Civil War to victimize and suppress former slaves. Unfortunately, it had to take the hate killings of nine church members praying in church in Charleston, South Carolina to bring attention to this symbol of racial hate and White supremacy donning the wall of the Tennessee State Capital.
There is no question that the bust needs to be removed, despite contention from some Whites who feel (like the Confederate flag) it represents their heritage. While some Whites may be proud of the Confederate flag and symbols representing White supremacy, but the children of former slaves and survivors of Jim Crow laws and discriminatory practices are insulted. They do not want to visibly see or be disrespected with symbols they see as representing oppression and hate, especially in public buildings.
I would think that if you were proud of the history and heritage of the Confederacy, you should display it in your private home out of respect for others who find it demeaning and disrespectful. In this time of post racial acclimation, where the tentacles of racism and bigotry refuse to go unnoticed, racist symbols exacerbating the social climate should be eliminated in public. It is time for Blacks and Whites to have open, honest dialogue about a tumultuous time in our country’s early history if we are going to be honest in correcting this sickness. There should be no sugar coating or diluting of the truth to ease the minds of Whites about the racist and dehumanizing practices of many of their ancestors.
It is through understanding history you can understand the present, deciphering why Blacks (generally speaking) are at a social, economic, and educational disadvantage when compared to their White counterparts. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it to make sure we go forward and make sure we don’t regress. We can even right some wrongs if we are serious about leveling the playing field—even if it means reparations for the descendants of former slaves. It could be a win for all if a true effort were made to offer equality and opportunities for all.
As an argument for those who think Blacks should get over slavery and embrace the symbols of racism, look at the Jews. It is well known that the Jews do not want the world to ever forget the killing of six million Jews during the Holocaust. You would not dare wear a swastika in their presence and think they wouldn’t be offended. In fact in Germany, it is illegal to publically wear or display a swastika or other Nazi paraphernalia. So why do some people think African Americans are any different when they are confronted with symbols reminding them of slavery, Jim Crow Laws, racism and White supremacy? Contrary to what some people may think, African Americans are human just like anyone else and they have feelings that should be respected.
The mere fact that African American’s racial concerns are not taken seriously only validates the severity of practiced racism running amuck. Sometimes it seems, issues affecting Blacks are considered trivial and insignificant until sympathetic Whites rally to their cause. Thank God that there exist real soldiers advocating for truth, equality, and righteousness willing to visibly put themselves out there to make this a better country for all.