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“Let us build bridges, not walls.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
For reasons that aren’t exactly clear, there are those in Rappahannock who wish to remove our Confederate Memorial at the County Courthouse. This sentiment seems to come mostly from our local Democratic activists, many of whom are not native Southerners, nor are native to this beautiful county.
I wish to present a different “solution” to what these folks think is a “problem,” but it requires what in theatre and film is called “the suspension of disbelief.”
Apparently these well-meaning liberal crusaders believe that our monument, by its very existence, is offensive to African-Americans. They also apparently believe that any display of any vestige of the Confederacy is at best insensitive and at worst is tantamount to treason against the United States, and should be removed.
That is a political position, not a moral position, or an historical truth. From my point of view, it is a dangerous and divisive tactic and one that serves no good purpose.
Many of the readers of this newspaper know that I was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. It was a heady but dangerous time. Its success was marked by the passage of the Public Accommodations Act and the Voting Rights Act.
Tragically, Dr. King was killed before his work was done.
Dr. King was first of all a black Southerner and he identified as a Southerner. Born in Atlanta in 1929, he was surrounded by relics of The Civil War and exposed immediately to the strict oppression of Jim Crow. As a child he surely knew (as I did) elderly folks who had been born into slavery and had childhood memories of that war and of “Reconstruction.”
My old friend and mentor Andrew Young was Dr. King’s right-hand man, his closest friend and confidante. Rev. Young was twice mayor of Atlanta, a Congressman, and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He is surely one of the most recognized and respected Americans of any race on the planet. And Andy and I agree on this issue.
A couple of years back, Andy invited me down to Morehouse College in Atlanta to speak on the issue of the Confederate Flag. To those of us who are descended from the men who fought under that banner, it represents their courage and valor against overwhelming odds. They are our family, our blood. Andy said at that event that the Confederate Flag was irrelevant in the struggle for equality, that it was never an issue for Dr. King.
There are only about 35,000 members of those “white supremacy” groups in the entire United States, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Klan and their ilk are a pitiful handful of dangerous and hateful creeps, pathetic losers compared to the estimated 80 million descendants of the Confederate Army. The racists desecrate our heritage. But there you have it. We descendants outnumber them by 80 million to 35 thousand. In the great scheme of things, they should be irrelevant. But the media and many in academia make a lot of hay focusing on those Klowns and keeping that false narrative cooking.
(Back in my days on “The Dukes of Hazzard,” an estimated 30 million Americans watched our shenanigans every Friday night for seven years. The rating demographics made it clear that the show had a very strong following among black Americans in the South. It still shows all over the world and that Rebel Battle Flag is very prominent on top of the “General Lee,” the most popular car in entertainment history).
In 1861, all of my family of that generation sent boys off to “fight the Damn Yankees.” And some didn’t come back. Gabriel Jacobs of North Carolina was killed at Frayser’s Farm in 1862. He was named after his great great great great Grandfather Gabriel Jacobs, an African slave who was freed in Northampton County, Virginia in 1695.
Those who are calling for the removal of our Confederate Memorial at the Courthouse are not coming from a genuine and nuanced understanding of our history and our progress. In my opinion, this divisive attack upon honored Southern memorials is beyond sickening. It doesn’t move us forward but backwards.
We can do better and we can do it together. I propose that those who are seeking to remove our Confederate Monument join with those of us who are descended from the Confederacy and erect a monument on those same grounds to recognize those who lived in slavery and servitude here and also honors those from here who fought for the Union in those years.
We can do this together and can make friends while doing so. Several of those folks who helped organize the recent event at Eldon Farms have indicated to me their support of such an idea and a willingness to help make it happen. Here in beautiful Rappahannock there is no need and no reason to fight. It is all about coming together and doing something positive, to build a bridge rather than a wall.
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