I am a seventh-generation white Southerner. My ancestors, who came to these mountains in the 18th century, fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and in every major U.S. war throughout the 20th century. Some were slave owners, some owned small businesses, some were sharecroppers, and some were forced as children to work in textile mills. My roots are deep here, and I wish to say that if you want to honor my ancestors, please stop glorifying Confederate monuments.
There is a difference between memory and celebration, and most Confederate monuments are less about memory and more about the celebration of white supremacist control. The monuments, in other words, are about promoting white power across the landscape. We know that the Civil War was fought over slavery. At the time, the Southern states were absolutely clear on that point. Inciting war for the purpose of enslaving others is not something to celebrate, and with or without the monuments, we will not forget that history.
If you want to celebrate my family, look to those who took courageous stands against segregation, fought for women’s voting rights, protested mill-owner abuses in the devastating strikes of the Depression or in other ways worked to ensure that everyone in this nation had/has a place at the table. But don’t revere their cruelest moments, those times when they enslaved fellow human beings, spread propaganda about race, used Christianity to bully and oppress, and caused a war that took the lives of over 600,000 people.
This debate remains a deeply divisive one in this country because too many white people continue to support racism through their words, votes, pocketbooks or willful resistance to examining the truth concerning the issue.
We must do better. If not for our ancestors, then most assuredly for our descendants.
— Darlene O’Dell