Letter to the Editor: Columbia resident speaks out about monument
To the Editor:
I live in Columbia NC. Our small town is a part of Coastland Times’ readership, and we have a problem.
Part of the problem is that not all of our community is ready to recognize this problem. They want to call it history, heritage. But some of us look at this and see hate.
I’m talking about a monument in front of our courthouse. It’s a fairly standard Civil War memorial for the most part, honoring the dead from our area. The surnames listed on the side match up tidily with my own schoolmates, and the same surnames attend school with my children’s generation now.
Like most similar monuments, this one was erected decades after the war ended, as Black Americans began the fight to enjoy the same freedoms as whites. Many of these were mass-produced, cast in bronze, erected less to commemorate losses than to intimidate civil rights seekers.
Ours has an especially egregious engraving: on one side, it thanks “our loyal slaves,” as though slaves had the freedom to choose loyalty. As though a slave who didn’t want to be treated as property had choices besides either doing it anyway, or risking their lives. As though perceived ‘disloyalty’ wasn’t punished by brutality and cruelty, from physical punishments to the removal of children.
It claims “loyal slaves” as though being enslaved is something noble and laudable these human beings did, rather than captivity forced upon them. As though building this nation and having nothing to show for it is an experience their descendants should celebrate.
Our town government seems to be certain that there’s nothing to be done about this statue, because state law covers the movement of memorials, and that therefore those of us who are disgusted to be represented by this reprehensible monument should just shut up and look the other way.
We’re not looking the other way and we’re not shutting up. In 2021, there’s no excuse for a monument celebrating slavery in our (or any) town, especially in a prominent location, a site of honor. It’s time for this statue to go, and we aren’t standing down.
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