Following the events of Charlottesville, VA the country, again, exploded into conversation about the presentness of racism and how, institutionally, this country is still promoting it. As a result there is a large discussion going on about the relevance, or lack thereof, of confederate monuments that glorify and affirm the actions of known racists and white supremacists. Being a self identified ally of the Black community I publicized my stance against the march of Neo-Nazi and other white supremacy groups by means of social media.
In my opinion these monuments that put racist, sexists, xenophobic white men on an alter do nothing but elicit fear from the same minority communities that they hated and abused when they were alive. My stance is simply that these monuments should be moved from public, government owned areas to areas of historic value pertaining to that individual. A confederate general’s statue has no place in the chapel of a public university where young people of color have to look at him and be remembered that it is a wide notion that they are considered second class citizens. These monuments do nothing but support that point. Instead these monuments could find their homes on famous civil war battle fields or in museums representing war times in America. That would be an appropriate setting to not only remember but to acknowledge the scars of history without forcing an entire minority population to stare at their abuser immortalized in bronze and marble.
This opinion is not held by all. Some people see this removal of monuments as an erasing of history or a hinderance of people moving forward in the world. Some people believe that we should stare our history in the face ugly or not. It is my opinion that people who zealously oppose the consideration of monument removal or movement are simply being ignorant of an entire population’s feelings. From my observations of social media debates most people who land on that side of the line are middle-aged white people from the South. One of those being my own family member who shared a post stating this:
“No white person alive today ever owned a slave. No black person alive today was ever slave. We can’t move forward if people want to keep living in the past.”
As a short preface to my response to this shared post, I have always been a more outspoken kind of person, always confident of myself enough to speak my opinions in every stage of my life. This would only become truer when I moved to Chicago and worked constantly around high profile, busy, big city people. So now, post-Chicago Andrew, can be fairly loose lipped when he sees an injustice or discrimination being carried out. Passion and aggression can sometimes be the easiest things for me to emote.
So when I read this post from a family member who has always claimed to be an advocate for the little guy, a hippie in the 60s and so on, I was astonished by the ignorance it spews. This post, its original author, and the family member that shared it have all spoken against 1.) the feelings of an entire population of people as pertaining to their own heritage and 2.) the existence of slavery itself in today’s society. Cliff note’s version: I was pissed. So pissed, in fact, that I didn’t think before I typed my response. With a goal not of empathy or understanding I wrote with as much wit and sting I could muster in that single moment (which is not much as you will see) the following post:
“To go with that logic: No one alive today has physically seen Jesus so everyone who is reading the Bible is just ‘living in the past’ and can’t move forward. “
Adrenaline pumping and heart pounding from the supposed “burn” I had laid on my ignorant relative I did the one thing I hated people to do: I posted the exchange on Twitter. If you can’t tell already this entire reflection is tinged with a thick layer of regret, but it doesn’t end there.
A few hours later my family member responded with a simple “shut up” which, at the time, I took as a decisive victory having taken words from my opponent.
A few hours after that my very respected friend responded to my family member’s post as well:
“[Name redacted], slavery still exist in the world…so the statement is false. Andrew, while not religious my self, I feel your correlation is slightly off (funny and an interesting thought to navigate). No one alive today has ever served in the Confederate States of America, so to fly the Battle Flag is just living in the past and not moving forward.”
My friend’s response did everything mine didn’t, it responded to the issue at hand and also did the one thing that I always claim to do but yet failed to do in my own response. He defended the unspoken atrocity that is modern slavery. In his first 11 words he shut down the entire logic of the post while instead my first 11 words did nothing but alienate an entire community of believers that probably saw my response as an assault on their beliefs. I did nothing but throw a quick jab to try and wound someone’s world view instead of providing the facts and empathy that could have been used to actually cause a change of mind. Once I realized this I was somewhere beyond disappointed in myself. I felt dirty, really. The next morning that family member blocked me from all social media which, hey, in reality isn’t a big deal.
My arrogance and lack of empathy had gone further in causing more damage than her ignorance. I was so caught up in feeling good about myself for defending what was right that I totally forgot to actually defend what was right! In all honesty, that family member and I shouldn’t have been family members in the first place. But beyond that there is no way I’m going to get someone to see my side of an issue if all I do is use quick jabs and quips to poke holes in their own ideology.
The correction here wasn’t what I thought it was at first. Through my own arrogance I thought that I was the one correcting her by bringing up this “clever” point no one else had cared to mention. But really it was a combination of a dear friend and myself correcting my own behavior. I allowed my view of the world to cloud everyone else’s. I’m learning more every day about the level of arrogance and narcissism I truly have. I thought that because the world persecuted me for my own slights that I was free from being above anyone. I was wrong and I had acted like a pretentious asshole without the patience to even think before responding to something I disagreed with.
I hope next time I see someone post something thats offensive, ignorant or just plain wrong I’ll be able to take the time to stop and think about the way my words may be perceived. I need to ask myself if the things I’m responding to are even worth responding to. Will my words actually be met with the same respect and empathy that I’m giving them? Are my words accurately showing my stance on the matter or are they simply feeding my ego? Maybe after answering these questions I will decide on the right thing to say, or better yet, say nothing at all. ____________________________________________________________________________________________
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