Today my oldest daughter started third grade. I’m so proud of who this girl is becoming. I have such high hopes for how she can make a difference in this world, and how this year in school will get her closer to figuring out how she can do that. For me, third grade was my absolute favorite grade in elementary school. My favorite teacher, Jill Huels, was amazing. There were so many seminal things that I learned that year.
Primarily, it was the first time I ever heard about slavery.
I remember my shock and confusion. I had to raise my hand and clarify that this actually happened in the United States. I remember how much I loved my country and how it didn’t make sense that we could do that to people, that anybody could do that to someone else. I didn’t want to believe it. At that time, I already knew about our nation’s heroes like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. (I even attended Lincoln Elementary School!) I guess I just assumed that something this evil would never have been tolerated. The idea of racism didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now. I also remember crying as Mrs. Huels told us about our nation’s ugly history. That day in class is a core memory for me.
People sure are getting upset about some statues. I totally get why they are mad, upset, and outraged that certain statues still stand. “But they represent history,” people on the other side of the argument say.
They do, in fact, represent history. They represent a history forged by hate, human trafficking, and oppression. They represent ungodly, awful history. History that shouldn’t be covered up or forgotten. Our nation’s past should be taught to third graders who are at the perfect age to learn that racism is not right. They need to learn that it is an evil that needs to be systematically killed off through education, love, forgiveness, and building relationships.
You know why people are upset by statues of men who systematically abused their ancestors, right? You can then understand why this is upsetting and probably should have been addressed decades ago, right?
I learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. in third grade, too. And I’ve never stopped loving who he was and the things he did, wrote, and said. Such powerful forgiveness and conviction for someone not too far removed from being alive in a slave state himself. He sowed love when he had every excuse to return hate with hate.
I wonder what our reaction to MLK would be if he were to address our nation about whether those statues should come down or not. You know what he would say about what went down in Charlottesville, right? Would we respond with our “yes, but” to him, still?
At first, I thought that the statues should come down, but my thinking is starting to turn around on this. Maybe what we need to do instead of taking down statues of Robert E. Lee and his contemporaries is to add to them. Make them more historically accurate. That’s why people don’t want them taken down, right? They want to be able to remember history and the major figures who helped forge that history? I get it. So let’s keep them up but add some details.
What I propose is that we add something to Robert E. Lee’s statue, and any others that fit the same category. Let’s add a family of slaves, chained up and bound, to the statue. Make it a husband and wife, along with a couple of children. A good sculptor could make sure that the beatings show up on their faces, along with the scars that hide their dying souls residing inside them. Robert E. Lee could even hold a chain that keeps the family together as he rides on his horse.
I’d actually be in favor of that kind of statue. After all, that’s more historically accurate to represent the kind of oppression and bondage that Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis led the Confederate states to protect.
Now, a little note about historical accuracy. I’m sure that Robert E. Lee had several white guys in his employ who were the main ones holding the chain as they led around a family of recently purchased human beings. Robert E. Lee had a lot more on his plate, specifically all the work he put into promoting and securing an oppressive regime on which, in today’s world, our country would place major embargoes on and possibly intervene with military action.
Am I off on this? Am I too bold in thinking that people > statues? My third grade curriculum taught me otherwise.
I didn’t learn everything I needed to know in Kindergarten. I didn’t learn that the human condition is as equally able to sell other people into slavery as it is to forgive the very people who enslave others.
People > statues. Let’s start wrapping our brains around that idea, because it’s as true for 3rd graders in 1985 as it is in 2017.
Oh yeah! One other thing about today that I want to add: Poppy, my third daughter, turned 1 today! Here’s a cute picture of a freaking adorable baby with food all over her face. I pray that she never has to see racism on display like it was in Charlottesville this past weekend.
Now I need to stop procrastinating and get back to the sermon I’m preparing for Sunday. The topic is Hell. Seems apt since we, as a nation, seem hellbent on recreating Hell for others with our racism and unwillingness to stamp racism out.