Black perspective on honored Confederate vestiges

William T

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Too many times, as African Americans, we have been made to see the views and perspectives of many southern Whites in reference to honoring their Confederate heroes from their White narratives. You have a substantial number of diehard descendants of Confederates who lost family and loved ones in a war feeling that their death and cause should be honored. It is only right to love and respect those in your family and you have that right. However, you must understand that when history finds you on the wrong side of justice, it usually does not revere those guilty of heinous and inhumane acts with public exhibits honoring their involvement or actions.

In many areas, especially the South, there are vestiges of Confederate heroes inundating many public places. There is no question that they played an indelible part in history that cannot be erased but one must be cognizant of what they fought and died for, i.e., defending slavery. And slavery is a cruel act of human bondage that cannot be trivialized or rationalized.

One must also be aware that those fighting for and defending the Confederacy were considered traitors representing states that had seceded from this country. When has it been a practice for nations throughout the world to honor or revere traitors in public venues, better yet name parks and buildings honoring their memory?

Imagine the righteous indignation that would result if you were to honor Benedict Arnold (a well-known American traitor) or Adolf Hitler in a public venue? Hands down, it wouldn’t happen. But we have descendants of infamous Confederates who can look the other way to support those who fought for a cause defending bigotry, hatred, and White supremacy.

Make no excuses, one cannot condone the vicious exploitation and inhumane treatment of Blacks as slaves (free labor and chattel property) for a profit. That is exactly what transpired. Honor you Confederate forefathers if you must, but privately in your homes, or in museums that have an obligation to report history as it occurred—not in public venues.

No one is trying to dismiss or eradicate one’s southern heritage, but painful and hateful reminders of contributors of this albatross of inhumanity should not be honored or revered in public. We all know that these vestiges of a time depicting slavery, hate, and White supremacy should not have been givenhonorable recognition in the first place. Reminders that their cause still lives on for their benefactors and descendants should not support them.

In fact, if anyone is interested in the truth, many of these vestiges honoring the Confederacy came about in the early ‘60s as a backlash to gains made for people of color during the Civil Rights Movement. Many assume it was a way to remind Blacks that White supremacy was far from dead and the status quo should remain place.

While you find some hard-core White nationalists, KKKs, and alt-Right advocates fighting to keep these vestiges of hate in place, it is important to see the apathy or indifference they feel for those on the other side. The feelings of hurt and blatant disrespect African Americans feel when encountering these vestiges that remind them of slavery, hate and White supremacy seem to be inconsequential to those still seeking to oppress them.

I ask those who are truly interested (in how African Americans feel about these Confederate vestiges of hate) to close their eyes and try to visualize the inhumane treatment, injustices, and discrimination slaves and their descendants have experienced while here in America. Now imagine if they were White. Would that effect how you would feel, and would that make a difference on how you view things?

The need to incorporate justice should not be a White or Black thing but a right thing. I am proud to live in a country that shows me time after time there are many with a moral compass dedicated to combating injustices and fighting for what we know is right.

In Nashville, the Tennessee State Capitol Commission had a chance to correct a grave problem polarizing the people in this state by voting whether to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest (first Grand Wizard of the KKK) located in the State Capital. It was defeated by a vote, seven to five. I pray that those seven who voted to keep the bust intact could honestly see the injustice they perpetuated, regardless of their rationalizations. They could have easily corrected a wrong dividing our community.

As it stands now, we must wait until next year when legislators could draft a bill for the removal of the bust. Every day that the bust remains in place is a slap in the face to African Americans in the state of Tennessee.

It literally echoes support for White supremacy. Wouldn’t you think our elected officials would be willing to proceed faster to eradicate this stain from our state?

So much for respecting the feelings of African Americans by our elected law making body! It shouldn’t be so hard or taxing to correct a grave injustice.