Take down the statues honoring those who sought to tear apart our country during the Civil War. Take down the heinous Confederate battle flags. They hurt your fellow human beings. I don’t understand why you would need more explanation than that.
The school in the small town where I live in Texas serves 305 students.
Next to this school that was built to educate these children, a man flies a Confederate battle flag daily. I wonder what comfort it provides him. If he needs an attachment to his history or heritage, books and websites exist to assist with that need for a connection to the past. You don’t have to hurt others to preserve your own heritage.
Imagine how seeing that flag feels to any African-American child who attends that school or comes to the school for events. These children have to pass by and accept that the people who live there celebrate their oppression.
I have researched my heritage and am proud of the family tree I created, but I also recognize one of my great-great grandfathers fought in the Confederate army. I won’t fly a Confederate battle flag to “honor” him as I know that action would hurt others and I understand that his actions worked to oppress others.
One of the largest high schools in Houston was named Robert E. Lee High School until the year 2000. Desegregation was ordered in the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. These dates mean that African-American children had to pass through the doors and study for 46 years under the name of a school named for a man who fought to keep them enslaved.
Imagine how that must have felt. Imagine if you had to go each day to school in a building named after the man who owned and raped your mother. I don’t know how else to try to explain the equivalency.
I grew up in two small all white communities, hearing hateful racial rhetoric. I had never actually met anyone who was African-American. I left for college in 1990 and made African-American friends. My eyes suddenly opened to the fact that others had experienced a completely different life based on their skin color and that those who spread the hateful rhetoric in my childhood were wrong.
I have taught children of all colors since 1993 as a public school teacher and school librarian. Until we are willing to have an honest conversation about race, this country will not heal. Listen to the stories of people of color. Do not assume you understand anyone else’s pain.
People of all colors have prejudices. Prejudice is an unfortunate byproduct of human nature.
Racism is different, which seems to be a concept that causes confusion among my fellow Texans.
Racism means an unequal distribution of power which is what African-American citizens face daily and have done so since our ancestors forcibly brought them to this country against their will.
They continue to face it as they have “the talk” with their kids.
As a white American and mother, “the talk,” for me, meant explaining sex to my kids. Every single African-American mother I know has told me “the talk” is what they have with their kids to teach them how not to be killed by the police.
In 2017, we have parents who must explain to their children how to not get killed by the police. That is unacceptable.
White Americans have to stop screaming reverse racism and listen to the experiences of people of color. Yes, I know you never owned a slave, so you feel vindicated. However, you also weren’t raised in a society that immediately prejudged you because of your skin color. Your ancestors weren’t brought to this continent in chains. You’ve had the benefit of choice and power your entire life whether you realize it or not.
Take down the statues honoring those who sought to tear apart our country during the Civil War. Take down the heinous Confederate battle flags. They hurt your fellow human beings. I don’t understand why you would need more explanation than that. Again, you don’t have to hurt others to preserve your own heritage.
Jennifer Gregory is a former public school teacher and librarian and the mother of two adult children. She lives in Covington, Texas.