He lectured me. “It would be so much better if y’all quit raising these kinds of issues and helped the City instead of hurting the City.” And on and on. He was talking about the protests of the new Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument being constructed in Selma’s Live Oak Cemetery. He is White, and I am Black.
I did not take umbrage. I was not insulted or outraged. I did not jump on him. I waited until he finished. I wanted him to fully understand, not be defensive.
Then I asked, “Did we really raise this issue? Did not those constructing the huge new monument to the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan raise the issue? Did not those who are building this monument to a man who murdered Black Civil War soldiers who had surrendered as well as the White officer who led them raise this issue? Did not those who are building a monument to a man who murdered Black women and children who were not in theUnion Army raise the issue.”
I saw from his face that he was completely caught off guard. His mind had not even considered in the least that they had raised the issued by building such a monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest in a public cemetery. It still amazes me that some people believe they have a God given right to do anything to other people and they have no right to even protesttheir own destruction. That’s the slash mark of White Supremacy.
The person with whom I was talking, whose name shall remain anonymous, is a decent person. When those he supports raise a monument on public property in honor of one who killed Black women and children, killed Black Union soldiers who had surrendered and the White officers who led them, and after the war built the Ku Klux Klan into a force that attacked, terrorized and murdered Black people for a hundred years, it is just freedom of speech. It is preserving their culture. It is recognizing their history. It is liftingtheir heritage. When those whose forebears were attacked, terrorized and murdered protest such a monument, it is rabble rousing, hurting the City, destructive to the image of the City and not at all freedom of speech. That’s the slash mark of White supremacy.
Some think that Black children should to go to public schools named Nathan Bedford Forrest, live in public housing projects named Nathan Bedford Forrest and look upon monuments of Nathan Bedford Forrest on public property in their neighborhood with quiet acceptance. Yet, they will not send their children to schools named after Malcolm X. Worse yet, they will not send their children to schools named Booker T. Washington, a black man who they accepted and praised. That’s the slash mark of White supremacy.
Some have virtually all the streets in Selma named after their people of note. Yet, they change the rules to make it extremely difficult to name a street after a Black person of note. Amelia Boynton Robinson is one of two mothers of the modern day Voting Rights Movement. She began working on voting rights in the 1930s and continued for 30 years. She was knocked down on one occasion and later beaten unconscious on Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She personally delivered the invitation requesting Dr. King and SCLC to come to Selma to help with the struggle for voting rights. Yet, we cannot get the street she lived on for so many years named after her by a majority Black Council. That’s the slash mark of a Black inferiority forged by White supremacy.
Some Black people do not see anything wrong with the monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest. We are so used to symbols of our own oppression that we cannot see the damage to ourselves and our children. Moreover, we see no harm in following an admitted disciple of Nathan Bedford Forrest and proud White supremacist. That’s a slash mark of a Black inferiority forged by White supremacy.
Some Blacks even urged acceptance of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument as the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King is accepted by Whites. Another person suggested that instead of trying to stop the Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument, we should ask that a statue of Congressman John Lewis be constructed. I heard of other Blacks saying, “It does not matter” or “I ain’t in that mess.” Each response is a slash mark of Black inferiority forged by a White Supremacy.
Selma is a powerful symbol for voting rights and freedom all over the world. That symbol draws tens of thousands to Selma each year, lifting the economy. When a huge monument of Nathan Bedford Forrest is raised on public property it diminishes this worldwide symbol of freedom. However, when we protest the construction of this symbol representing the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, we are charged with hurting Selma. And the most terrible thing of all is some never even perceive the great injustice of their positions. These are the ultimate slash marks of White supremacy and Black inferiority forged by White supremacy.
Hank Sanders is a civil attorney in Selma, Alabama. He also serves in the Alabama State Senate. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.