‘The racism of yesterday creates the realities of today’

7/7/2017, 1:14 p.m.

Re “Tear those statues down,” Free Press June 29-July1 edition:

I hear some folks say we should be focused on schools and poverty, not Monument Avenue.

But I think the legacy of the monuments on Monument Avenue is what created and sustains the wealth disparity in Richmond and the conditions that created and sustain poor schools in our city.

What did the Confederate army stand for? The “right” of Southern states to keep African people enslaved — also known as states’ rights.

When you divorce the monuments from the legacy of the ideas that made the monuments a reality, that’s when you miss the bigger picture.

By disconnecting public housing and poor public educational systems from systems of racism (slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination), racist movements (white flight and Massive Resistance) and racist policies (redlining, the influx of crack cocaine into African-American communities sanctioned by the CIA), that made the pathologies we see in those two institutions inevitable. Current racists are able to say, “Hey, it’s those savage black folks’ fault that their communities and schools are horrible.”

Our job is to keep a foot on their neck by exposing the continuity of the historical record and that the racism of yesterday is what creates the realities of today. 

When the United States invaded Iraq, the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled. Why can’t we topple the statue of an openly racist and white supremacist named Jefferson Davis?

Because of the consciousness of those still in power.

The legacy of the Monument Avenue Confederate statues is white domination — and no plaque can change that fact. The fact that the statues are up, and that our city government is trying to find some way to contextualize them, speaks volumes about power — who has it and who doesn’t.

We can all agree that if the South had won the Civil War, Africans would have been kept in bondage.

The fact that we can’t say, “Hey, let’s take the monuments down” without it being contentious says that the legacy of a hierarchy of human value that puts white people at the top and celebrates them even when they are on the losing side and wrong is still the status quo in Virginia.