American slavery is being discussed again. But, not because African Americans brought it up. It is in the news due to debates around the removal of Confederate statues. It seems that there is a way to talk about American slavery that persons are comfortable with. If it is about honoring so- called war heroes that fought to keep Africans and African Americans in perpetual servitude to European Americans, then, “Pull up a chair. Let me tell you all about it.”
That’s more than awkward; it is alarming. Because they are not war heroes but traitors to our shared humanity. Forget walking in someone else’s shoes, they didn’t want to share the earth with Africans and later African Americans. These persons thought the abolition of slavery to be anti- American. And they did more than protest in city streets, they started a war.
They even gave themselves a new name, The Confederate States of America also known as the Confederacy, representing the eleven states that seceded from the union. From 1861-1865, they rebelled against the law of the land. Rather than play nicely with the African Americans, they segregated themselves, cut themselves off from persons who disagreed with them. They even created a new flag to pledge allegiance to. No compromise, no discussion, no meeting persons halfway, their personal wealth, largely dependent upon the forced labor of African Americans, was more important. Profits over people.
Persons who argue that the statues should remain say that we cannot change history. But what we can change is our view of it. We can say that this story, this time in our lives was bad and what we did was wrong. The stir that this has caused is proof that apologizing for slavery is not enough. Instead, actions must follow that say that we do not support or look up to our past actions.
This disturbing history is an opportunity to reexamine our own. Though as Christians, our sign should only be Christ’s cross, in June, an article in Christianity Today asked, “Should Churches Keep Their Civil War Landmarks?” Churches, schools and city streets were named after members of the Confederacy. Following local governments who are removing statues erected long after the Civil War, churches like the National Cathedral are removing stained glass windows honoring generals like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. This history should always disturb us and move us to examine ourselves. If it hard for us to remove statues, how much more difficult it will be for us to replace stony hearts (cf. Ezekiel 36.26).