I don’t believe in covering up or erasing history. It happened. It existed. We can acknowledge that. There’s no debate over things that have been long since done. But I don’t believe in continuing to glorify people who committed atrocious acts simply because that’s what we have always done. I don’t know of a family that when they look back at great, great, great grandpa who was known to beat great, great, great grandma unconscious or of a family with a buried secret of an incestuous uncle who molested little children, who paper their living room walls with oil paintings of those dead family predecessors and go around saying, “Oh, he sure was a good guy.”
No, they may say, “I appreciate that my ancestor passed down this land, but he was not a nice person.” Or: “We may not talk about it, but we all know Uncle was an evil pedophile.” We don’t pride ourselves on the sick part of our family history just because they made a contribution in the form of say, a parcel of land. We all know when there’s family members in an ancestral tree that nobody boastfully speaks about, something bad happened on that branch.
So why do we do it with history? We all know what the Confederacy was for — or we should, and if we don’t we should read the states’ own secession declarations and the Cornerstone speech that make exactly how they feel about “the Negro” clear. In back ‘Letters’ of The Tennessean, I saw several pro-Confederacy contributions penned by the same man with a PhD in the study of words who can’t seem to find any of the ones used to depict his nation’s actual history. I think we all know what that’s about.
Those voices will always exist.
It’s okay to say, “You know what, Andrew Jackson, I appreciate your contribution to our country, I just no longer want to look at your face every time I need to pay the pizza man.” Because it’s okay to acknowledge the despicable, disgusting way Andrew Jackson treated Native Americans. It makes no sense to continue to honor people who facilitated and committed heinous acts of racial violence just because that’s what we’ve always done. When you know better, you do better. And we know better in 2016.
I don’t need symbols of the biggest domestic terrorist organization our nation has ever known, the Confederacy, to remind me that I’m Southern. I don’t need a Nathan Bedford Forrest statue to remind me that I hail from the great state of Tennessee, nor do I look at them and say, “Well, besides the Battle of Fort Pillow and the disgusting war crimes and acts of treason against the United States, he was alright.”
No, he wasn’t. And there’s no sense in continuing to still say that. If I need a reminder that I’m Southern, I’ll eat a pot of white beans for supper. And if I want to take pride in my Tennessee roots, I’ll wear my custom-made Jalen Hurd jersey and watch him slaughter a defender on the gridiron.
It’s time to move on, Tennessee.