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Op-ed: The Richmond Racism Rant
Put All the Racist Monuments in Museums
By Shawn Everett Jones
If you had a nutshell and you just had to put the history of America in it, the bare essence, the most basic way to describe the history of America would be: Civilization had been thriving in America for millennia, then the white man came and killed off that civilization with the help of enslaved Africans. But history is written by the victors, the invaders. So that turns the story into: A brave explorer discovered a new land where all could come and live and farm and find treasures and own plantations and prosper.
The progress of American culture has depended on the enslavement, oppression, genocide and ruthless aggression towards many peoples of many races, cultures and religions.
I once had a housemate who painted a portrait of Hilter. To everyone's chagrin, he hung it in plain sight in the den. Everyone hated it and wanted to take it down. At my Halloween party, the portrait raised a lot of questions from guests and later I would try to explain, Well, I didn't want to be a Nazi and take it down. I imagine that the reason he painted it and hung it was that he just wanted to have discussions about Hitler and all things related to Hitler. Maybe I was naïve, but that is the way I thought of the situation. But when we had a German couch-surfer come through, everyone in the house definitely wanted the painting gone, so I just put it in our housemate's room.
In Richmond, Virginia, where I lived for years, there is a monument of Christopher Columbus. There is solid proof of Columbus' terrible deeds in his very own journals, plus the journals of others. We have this man who is a symbol of American conquest because of the lies told in history books. What is standing in Richmond, too, is a monument to a person who killed, tortured and abused many people. Not unlike Hitler's holocaust was the genocide of the native people. (In fact the holocaust was fashioned after the U.S. Government's genocide of Native Americans). Yet there is a statue for him and no one has yet taken it to hide in the artist's room.
Take, too, the Rebel flag. I used to work at a museum of art and history. Part of the building's rich history was that it was the last Capitol of the Confederacy. We had rooms full of Confederate items including the Confederate flag. A museum is the exact place such relics should be. Keep the history by all means, I believe in that. Because even though I began with a simple version of the history of our country, the reality is that it is never as simple and is always more complex than we can imagine. I mean, we don't hear much about the Gullah Wars, we don't hear about the intense slaughter of natives that were happening during the Civil War. We hear the simple version from the victors.
And although Southerners have the right to appreciate, respect and honor their heritage and ancestors, they don't really have a right to belong to hate groups that murder and bully. Such Southerners are so wrapped up in their commotion that they don't know or care that the Rebel flag symbol to some is the same as a swastika to others—or, well, I guess they wouldn't care about that either. I guess to them burning a Confederate flag would be what it is like for some to see the same flag raised high on a pole. Except the Confederate flag can be seen in public and even on government institutions all over the South. There are more Confederate flags billowing in the wind than there are burning on the ground.
I think it is time to put all the monuments in museums. Take them off of the streets and create a historical sculpture garden. In Richnond, Tredegar Iron Works right by the James River would be a good place to put them. But please get them out of my face.
Now we are on the verge of disrupting a slave burial ground with a baseball stadium, right on a place that is sacred to many people all over the world. Of all the places in Richmond, why there?! Why not put the stadium on top of Hollywood Cemetery. That wouldn't go over very well, would it? Or, hey, remember that time VCU moved a house across the street and then paved over a historical stop on the underground railroad that existed under that house?
We have to honor and respect all Americans history, we need to keep and preserve all of OUR history. It is what it is. From all perspectives come the truth. And as a people who live together we should live more neighborly in all respects and at least respect that all have their sacred history and the very special rights to not be oppressed by your history.
#Racism #AmericanHistory #RVA #VCU
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