Last week, a lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama was opened in remembrance of the tragic and violent past that murdered innocent African-American victims. Lynchings were one of America’s most terrible atrocities, and acknowledgement of this was long overdue.
Additionally, The Montgomery Advertiser admitted to a dark past within the paper that contributed to portraying lynching victims as deserving of the terrible act and propagating other racist ideals. A few other Southern newspapers have followed suit in acknowledging their skewed coverage in terms of civil rights.
Acknowledging what this nation did is one of the first steps in being able to move forward from our terrible past as a country, but it must be followed by much more. This memorial is great because it shows organizations expressing remorse for what they did, and I hope they continue to do more to try to fix the wrongs committed against African-Americans.
Moving forward does not mean forgetting. No matter what we do to make amends, we should also remember and understand the atrocities committed against African-Americans in this country.
This also means not warping history to fit an agenda, which some Southern states have done. Some textbooks in Texas, for example, gloss over slavery and claim that the Civil War was only fought because of states’ rights.
While states’ rights were one of the reasons for the Civil War, it was an issue heavily focused on states’ rights to own slaves, and this cannot be left out of history. The children of America need to understand the horrors of racism, because when we don’t teach the reality of our history, the past is bound to repeat itself.
Other examples of this skewed historical narrative is how some people in the South refer to the Civil War as the “War of Northern Aggression.” Manipulating facts like this in order to be portrayed as the good guy is not how history should be taught; it should be the truth, and nothing else but that.
Another crucial step that must be taken following the construction of this memorial is the removal of Confederate monuments. Those monuments are symbols for secession and slavery, and there is nothing to be proud of in that.
Southern pride is one thing, but pride for the Confederacy is rooted deeply in racism and needs to be eliminated. There should be no pride for a moment in history where people fought to keep others enslaved and split the nation in half.
I often see trucks driving around with the Confederate flag hanging on the back in my own small hometown in New Jersey. This makes absolutely no sense considering we fought in the Union, and it clearly stands as a symbol of white supremacy and racism.
If the South truly wants to admit to their terrible past and try to make amends, any sort of Confederate pride and monuments have to go. These things only perpetuate the same ideas that the Confederacy fought on — oppression of the “inferior race,” or white supremacy.
Another step that must be acted on is continuing to find ways to bring African-Americans to the same level of privilege white people hold, since they are still suffering as a group from centuries of oppression and being stripped of their rights.
This includes supporting Affirmative Action in order to achieve equal educational opportunities and eventually job opportunities. This also means fighting to end police brutality and the skewed imprisonment rates for African-Americans as this is also contributing to their inequality that is still very much present in America.
We have a lot to do if we want to even begin to fix the wrongs that have been committed for centuries and continue to be committed in this country, but this lynching monument is a good start. I just hope we do not stop at that and say all is forgiven — we have much more work ahead of us.