Opinion: A radical notion to condemn the Confederate efforts

Madison Newingham

I must preface this article which a clear statement: I am in disbelief I need to even elaborate on this topic.

June 3 is the Confederate Memorial Day to supposedly honor the Confederacy.

I understand we have an inherent right to speech, so let’s talk about that speech here.

In honoring the Confederacy, we, as a nation, suggest that we support the Confederate motives.

In the American Civil War, the North and South pretended they were disputing federal power. But we can all agree that the issue was actually slavery.

I do not think this should even be hard to admit or should need any dispute — we all must be able to recognize slavery was incredibly evil and toxic and was perpetuated in the South.

The motive for the Confederacy regarded their preservation of the enslavement of human beings forcibly removed from their homes. They wanted to preserve their “culture” of slavery.

“Condemnable” does not even begin to describe that institution, and there is no argument to be made about nobility. The Confederacy does not deserve to be highlighted in praise.

Our Southern states recognize this battle for slavery, and they honor it as heroic. They have actual holidays honoring the pursuit for slavery. I am not saying every person in the South does, but there are many who still do.

The Civil War was in the 1860s, so I am confused as to why we are commemorating white supremacists. In doing so, we propel racism throughout the country, especially in the Deep South. It is unacceptable to honor a coalition of rebel states for acting so.

Instead, we ignore landmark dates and moments in history illustrating the successes and progress in civil rights and social justice.

I am under the impression that our nation cares about equity. I am pretty positive the Statue of Liberty has something carved on it about liberty — yet we have citizens of the United States celebrating an encroachment on liberty and basic dignity.

I want to highlight important dates in history that matter a lot more than propelling white supremacy in 2017.

Starting with a critical one, we ratified the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868, granting citizenship to African Americans and prohibiting states from denying equal protection or due process of the law to anyone on the basis of race.

For those who are not history nerds, while this was a landmark win in the movement for civil rights, it did not fully apply or matter to all until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which finally gave African Americans equal rights institutionally.

Moving forward an entire century, let’s review the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1954, Brown v. Board affirmed that “separate but equal” is inherently unequal and overturned Plessy v. Ferguson. We still have states in the South actually arguing in favor of segregation to “protect the white community” in 2017.

A year after Brown v. Board, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy, was murdered for no other reason than being black. Also in the same year, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat.

In the ’60s, lunch counter sit-ins popularized and spread throughout the South as peaceful, respectful means of nonviolent direct action.

The year 1963 saw the March on Washington draw in Americans standing for the basic human rights of their fellow people. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech and won the Nobel Peace Prize the same year.

Four years later in 1967, Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. A year later, the Supreme Court ruled in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County that schools must actually desegregate, and Brown was reaffirmed.

I also want to highlight those less recognized and equally pivotal to the Civil Rights Movement — those often sidelined to unmoral causes. It is inexcusable to honor white supremacy over members of the African-American community who lived through volatile discrimination and physical oppression.

The Root, a magazine focused on black culture, showcased imperative actors in the Civil Rights Movement in its 2014 article “Civil Rights Leaders Who Changed History,” but I’ll mention only a few: Dorothy Height, Bayard Rustin and current U.S. Sen. John Brown.

Height served as president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years and was a leader in the civil rights, as well as the reproductive rights movements. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. 

Rustin played a key role in organizing the March on Washington. Rustin also advised King on civil disobedience strategy and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Lewis currently represents Georgia and previously served as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1963. Lewis also played a key role in planning the March on Washington and is remembered as a hero of the “Bloody Sunday” protest at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965. Lewis is still fighting every day for the freedom our Constitution promises and our institutions must execute.

Lastly, it is crucial we must honor those who lost their lives and brought visibly to overt oppression.

For example, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered in pursuit of civil rights in 1964.

Sadly, plenty of lives have been lost to racial divisiveness today as well, as the list is a lengthy one: Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, John Crawford III, Samuel DuBose, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Christian Taylor, Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Jessica Hernandez, Jonathan Ferrell, Oscar Grant, Antonio Zambrano-Montes and Anastasio Hernandez Rojas.

These victims face the same racism faced half a century ago. These notions of supremacy and of racism have been around since human civilization, and we must continue to fight against them today. We can try to say we have progressed, but there is truly no justice anywhere if we cannot all feel it.

Instead of suggesting that the black community is better off now than then, white people can stand with the black community to fight alongside them for justice. I do not want to hear about progress in civil rights to shadow the existing inequality.

This happens every day in American society, and we must recognize its harmful effects on our people. We must call for true social justice and denounce the immoral rhetoric surfacing through this leadership. We must not look past injustice to keep peace and order.

The push for equality must burn brightly in all of us, or none of us can have it.

Madison Newingham is a columnist, contact her at [email protected].