On Monuments and History

(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

When you see the flags come down and watch the monuments getting removed, and you say things like, “But we can’t just erase our history,” please listen to how incredibly racist that is.

These are monuments to honor people who fought to keep people enslaved, placed there decades after the Civil War in order to try to control the narrative about who won and who lost, about who emerged dominant. These are monuments to racism.

They say history is written by the victors, and that is so often true, but the proponents of the confederacy could not allow a story that saw the people they had formerly enslaved taking an equal place at the American table. So they took hold of the story, placed statues of their slave-owning heroes in the public square, and swayed the narrative to place themselves again at the center.

Please don’t worry that we’re erasing history. We’ll keep teaching Civil War history, but we’ll also teach about the massacres and the lynching and the systematized racism that was put into place in order to terrorize and intimidate and demoralize Black people in its aftermath, to try to keep them unfree. We will teach the full history, of all of us. We’ll keep finding primary sources and researched, academic analysis of the post-Civil War era. And certainly, we’ll teach about those statues, which were raised by people who refused to lose a war, in order to offer a visual symbol of white supremacy. We’re not erasing history, and we’re not changing history. We’re completing the narrative.

As my friend Chantelle says, “Some of white history NEEDS to take a backseat.” It’s time, and past time, to tell the entire narrative.

And–Happy Juneteenth!
I know white people have a tendency to take over everything, and I don’t want to do that here. This is an important day in United States history, and I celebrate this day with all whose ancestors were enslaved in this country, when the word finally came two years later to Texas that “All Slaves Are Free.”

None of us are truly free until all of us are free. If ever we can celebrate true freedom and the hope of freedom in America, it is today. I pledge to continue that work of freedom in any way I can.


Gratitude List:
1. I saw a hairy woodpecker! I often wonder if some of what I am calling downies might actually be hairies, but those weren’t. When you know a downy, then when you see a hairy, you know it’s a hairy. I love how perception works like that.
2. Learning ALL the history, terrible as much of it is. Half a narrative is a false narrative.
3. Seeing my parents! We were allowed to visit at a distance with my parents last evening, and it was incredibly pleasant to sit and chat and see their eyes again.
4. I am almost finished with the prayer shawl. It will be complete in just a couple hours. I am grateful with the anticipation of passing it on to the young man it is meant to bless.
5. Indigo bunting–one drop of holy shining blue in all that writhing mass of green.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” —Maya Angelou


“I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ―Anne Lamott


“[E]ducation is not just about utilizing a particular curriculum, or ensuring that critical reflection in a community follows a particular formula. It is full of intangible and random events. It is not just taught in the classroom, but lived in the midst of the community in ways that are not even fully quantifiable.” ―M.S. Bickford on the educational theories of John Westerhoff


“The trouble with trouble is, it starts out as fun.” ―Anonymous


“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. . .give it, give it all, give it now.”
—Annie Dillard


“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
—Leymah Gbowee


“There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.” —Wangari Maathai


“Throughout my life, I have never stopped to strategize about my next steps. I often just keep walking along, through whichever door opens. I have been on a journey and this journey has never stopped. When the journey is acknowledged and sustained by those I work with, they are a source of inspiration, energy and encouragement. They are the reasons I kept walking, and will keep walking, as long as my knees hold out.” —Wangari Maathai


“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” —Joseph Campbell


“I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself. I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”
—Ray Bradbury

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