Dear Black Americans

Dear Black Americans,

I owe you an apology. You have been right about many things.

To start, you are 100% correct when you say I do not understand your history or culture.

Well, I mean, I understand (some of) your history from a purely intellectual, higher education perspective. Yet as you’ve said to me & others, formal education, nor the number of books I’ve read can equate to a genuine understanding.

I was also wrong about another critically important issue; the issue being my initial reaction regarding the removal of confederate monuments following the chaos of white supremacy & the tragic aftermath.

I stated my case. I was polite. Still, something kept nagging me.

And then (finally) I remembered.

A Medium article written by a black man during the catastrof*ck of all election seasons is one that has stayed with me. This article is one that has stuck with me. The greatest gift he gave me was the questions he posed.

Unfortunately, no, I hadn’t seen the Confederate flag as an issue. Growing up on the West coast, all that flag really represented to me was Dukes of Hazard. It was, like so many things in childhood, a creation of Hollywood, a fantasy world I can’t say I ever analyzed.

There was no intended malice behind my point of view, however there was ignorance.

After re-reading his piece, after my own introspection & self-reflection about why I believed monuments & flags were a part of American history, and therefore should be left alone, I realized once more, my own logic was deeply flawed.

I will never be able be able to grasp just how you feel about confederate monuments or the confederate flag, at least not in the same visceral sense your ancestors or other black people can.

Child bullies don’t compare.

I can only go back to the years of being an awkward kid who was constantly made fun of/shunned. I was always, ‘different.’ I was to outgrow much of that. My memories aren’t pretty, but that’s typical kid stuff. I’m not reminded every time I leave my home.

Dual citizenship doesn’t either.

Although my father immigrated to the States less than 70 years ago, he was able to receive an education that was denied to your parents. Even though Greeks were treated poorly, I cannot equate such treatment to slavery. Some may not have liked us, but even so, my family was in shipping. People still did business with us. My grandfather co-owned a market/butcher shop with his brother/my Great Uncle, John. He kept a cafe he’d owned in Athens. In the end, all of his children were successful in their respective careers. It was due to the sacrifices of other Americans who came long before that my family was able to benefit.

You are right, Black Americans — I genuinely don’t fully grasp the emotions that flood your minds on a daily basis.

One thing left out, particularly in the arguments of white supremacists, is that which they don’t wish to acknowledged: they were not the only sons & daughters of the confederacy.

In fact, they may have descended from African ancestors. Blacks, too, were also sons & daughters of confederacy. They may have been looked upon as property to the men who made their mothers pregnant, yet that is one reason this issue runs far deeper than the matter of white people wanting to preserve glorification of the confederacy, leaving these symbols in their current state. They cannot glorify the confederate army, while avoiding the fact that people they view as ‘other’ share their blood in plenty of instances. This isn’t a story about white Southern history — it is about being humane, compassionate & doing our best to advance the kindness & equality in this country.

As I come back to it, some things aren’t so cut & dry. I admittedly would not want to see Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello torn down because he was a slave owner. I would like the public to hear the whole story. Don’t glorify him, don’t vilify him, simply tell the whole story as a part of history. Doing so in the home in which he lived would only help someone like myself (artist, creative, visual) develop an even stronger understanding of the time period were I to see it in tact, facts included.

History books and memoirs, regardless of how well written, regardless of how horrible the stories, there’s always a disconnect between paper & hearing oral history or personal stories.

I will never be able be able to grasp just how you feel about confederate monuments or the confederate flag, at least not in the same visceral sense your ancestors or other black people can.

If you aren’t done explaining this stuff to white women, I do hope you’ll leave a comment to tell me how you feel about confederate monuments or how you feel when you see a confederate flag flying on government property. If you’re exhausted by these questions, I respect that completely (nor do I really blame you.)

In closing, I’ll keep it simple:

Dear Black America,

I apologize for my ignorance. It has come at the cost of additional human suffering, however small or large. I wish I’d made the effort to listen far sooner. I cannot change or undo the past. What I can do, is be thoughtful & mindful of how seemingly small things can add up to create something larger, something with consequences I’d never considered.