To the Editor:
I don’t understand why some of our neighbors find it hard to comprehend and sympathize with the long-harbored feelings of anguish and insult that have culminated in the local NAACP’s request to remove the plaques at the base of the Union soldier statue — plaques which honor the Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
With the marked rise of nationalism, white supremacists, and hate groups in the past few years, alongside the horrific, indisputable, and continued killing of innocent and unarmed black boys and young men by police across the country, people are particularly sensitive to symbols of racism, especially those sanctioned by town and state governments. Confederate flags are being taken down, along with statues which pay tribute to the people and institutions that fought to promote the subjugation, hatred, and cruelty imposed on Africans brought to this country to supply a slave-based economy. This is occurring in many Southern cities. The majority of sentiment, even in the South, is that there is no place for government-sanctioned honor for symbols that have historic ties to the immoral enslavement of others. The era of slavery is a shameful period in our past that Americans must accept as wrong and commit to never repeating as we fight to root out the still alive and growing racism this country has harbored since its inception, beginning with the original white settlers’ treatment of the indigenous First Nation people.
Claims that there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville and the firing up of white nationalist sentiment that has resulted in the domestic terrorist slaughter of congregants in Jewish temples and black churches across the country, as well as bombing and arson attacks on black churches (including the three very recent ones in Louisiana just this month) are the exact reasons why these plaques need to come down. We should all be standing against any vestige of racism and hate. Let the plaques go to the M.V. Museum, and their story be told in that venue. “The chasm” is not closed. It is deeper today than ever — and widening — and we all need to voice bold opposition to the brazen bigotry that is rising among us and demonstrate that it is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
There is no reason on earth to pay homage to soldiers who fought to perpetuate slavery. Doing so, and more pointedly, conspicuously, at the gateway to a most often visited Island town, creates dismay and confusion for Islanders and visitors alike. I hope we can reach a consensus that will be sensitive to the strong feelings of revulsion so many of us feel about these plaques. Let’s find a more appropriate place for them in the M.V. Museum, where their story and the sentiment behind them regarding the brotherhood felt by veterans fighting on opposing sides can be told in a historic framework and seen clearly in that light.