How do we choose our heroes as children?
We were taught to idolize those folks our parents revered, as they learned from the generation before them. This is a romantic tradition and part of our human nature. I am from Louisiana and proud of my Southern roots. New Orleans remains one of my favorite cities for its rich history, unique culture and amazing cuisine. I will forever bleed purple and gold for my beloved LSU Tigers. I’m not proud, however, of my home state’s history of slavery. The New Orleans French Quarter was once a hub for slave trading. Long after slavery was abolished, racism persisted throughout government and society. Similar to many southern states, the white heroes presented to me were often ones that white community leaders held in high regard, were glorified in biased history books and recreated in shiny metal on our courthouse lawns. Today, some citizens find these memorials interesting and nostalgic. Many folks view them with a level of indifference. But too many people find them painful reminders of a century of enslavement.
We all want pride in our hometowns, our native states, our country and the people who founded them and fought for them. Decisions made a century and a half ago, however, were not always made in the interest of peace and a united people. Today, who can imagine building a country by enslaving others, going to war to keep slavery alive, or even building monuments to those who died for the right to own another person? A country seeking to do any of those things today would be scorned and ostracized. I’m not suggesting that every piece of history should be rewritten with the vision and wisdom gained from hindsight, but our children will inherit this country. Let’s show them we have the ability to move forward by learning through listening and eliminating public displays and reminders of enslavement.
History is a powerful treasure: it makes us enlightened in understanding conflicts of the past, fortunate to see epic tragedy from a safe distance, and obligated to protect the truth for future generations. Slavery is an undeniable part of our history, and we should learn from it, but we should not celebrate it. Let us listen to those whose families suffered at the hands of those we’ve memorialized, and act in a balanced and empathetic way. It is time to move the Confederate statue from the grounds of the courthouse.
Let’s show our community and our country that change can happen, not in a moment of frustrated anger but after moments of thoughtful reflection.