NEW YORK TIMES: I am a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists. My very existence is a relic of slavery and Jim Crow. According to the rule of hypodescent (the social and legal practice of assigning a genetically mixed-race person to the race with less social power) I am the daughter of two black people, the granddaughter of four black people, the great-granddaughter of eight black people. Go back one more generation and it gets less straightforward, and more sinister. As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.
It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children.
What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals? MORE
RELATED: Most Americans acknowledge slavery as this nation’s original sin and greatest crime against humanity, even without the added iniquity of a century of Jim Crow laws. We do not look wistfully back at the Japanese Internment or the Chinese Exclusion Act. We no longer see General Custer as a hero, but as someone who received richly-deserved comeuppance during the Native American genocide.
Why, then, does a significant portion of the American population to this day still lionize those who literally committed treason in order to preserve and perpetuate white supremacy? America has learned to reject the crimes, but has not yet learned to reject those who committed those crimes.
It’s long past time that our nation came to grips with the prejudice that to this day still poisons our national discourse. The Confederate flag and monuments to Confederate leaders need to be removed from public property. More importantly, the government needs to ensure that every schoolchild is shown that even by the laws of the time, those who fought for the Confederacy were not heroes, but traitors.
And that those traitors fought to preserve their “right” to own men, women, and children as property, and to do with those slaves as they would, up to and including rape and murder. No, such men must not be lionized. Even Lee, as cruel and brutal as we now know him to have been, knew there should be no monuments to him, or to anyone of the Confederacy which had been defeated on the field of battle. When asked to attend a meeting concerning such monuments, Lee replied, as documented by New York Times:
I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered. MORE