To the Editor:
Clennon King has a point about the Civil War statue in Ocean Park being offensive. Anything that honors those who fought to enslave a group of people has got to go. In this case I would keep the statue but replace the offending panel.
The Civil War was an extremely brutal war. We do not know exactly, but there were between 640,000 and 700,000 people killed on both sides, of which 200,000 were combat deaths. The rest were deaths by disease, accidents, suicide, murder, execution, etc. The National Archives say at least 40,000 of those killed were African American, possibly more because records were not so well kept when it came to African Americans.
The North won, and slavery was abolished. Just because slavery was abolished does not mean racism was abolished. Winning a war is one thing, changing human nature is another. That takes time. Here we are 150 years later, and racism still exists in America, not as bad as it was but still bad enough.
Mr. King is wrong, however, when he says that Martha’s Vineyard is no different from much of America when it comes to the matter of race. I have lived on Martha’s Vineyard for the past 32 years. I have also lived in the Greater Boston area, Richmond, Va., and Asheville, N.C., where racism is a fact of life. In my 32 years living on Martha’s Vineyard, I have never met a racist person. The people who live here year-round are the least racist people I have ever seen. Mr. King says that nothing epitomizes subtle racism more than the continued presence of that statue. I would wager that 99 percent of the people who live here have never even read the inscriptions on the panels.
Mr. King says we sell ourselves as an Island of progressives, we boast about being a playground for the black elite and shamelessly point to the Obamas, Spike Lee, and Skippy Gates as proof. The truth is we don’t sell ourselves as anything but ordinary people, and we don’t care one way or the other if the Obamas, Spike Lee, and Skippy Gates come here or go somewhere else for vacation. As long as everybody leaves after Labor Day.