You Must be Replaced.
If you’re happily married, you might cringe at the thought of your spouse not wearing their wedding band because it elicits a feeling of not being valued. Or you might find it profoundly disrespectful when someone gives you the middle finger because it ultimately means that at that moment, you don’t matter. In some very small, but real, ways, we are connected to symbols because of what they mean to us and to the larger society.
And, I think it’s easy to underestimate the power of symbols; unless they mean something to you.
But what is even more underestimated is the power of these symbols to create a deep sense of pride in a false narrative. And that this pride, rooted and grounded in lies, deeply penetrates not only the psyche of those who believe it, but the very fabric of an entire nation.
As a friend recently reminded me, in post-Nazi Germany symbols and statues of that ideology were removed and replaced; eventually those former symbols represented a time of great shame and disgrace for the country.
But, here in America, especially in the South, not so much. There’s not much shame in these symbols that represent hatred and terror. Statues of confederate soldiers (heroes to many) sit high and flank the entrances of this nation’s halls of justice & institutions of higher learning and to people like me, we see a hidden sign over those statues that reads, “hatred is acceptable here”. Or at prominent and prestigious institutions, academic buildings proudly bear the names of men who violently killed, raped and enslaved our ancestors, making it difficult for students, staff & faculty who look like me to accept a sense of belonging in that place.
Many white Americans deny being racist, yet fight to hold on to symbols that elicit a visceral remembrance of terror and trauma for an entire people all while shouting, “You will not replace us.” And we see the clinging of these symbols displayed in your personal lives and also in the leaders, laws and policies that govern this nation.
Well, to that I say, you must be replaced.
Your version of this nation’s history based on lies and anecdotes must be replaced.
Your inadequate sense of self and identity founded upon violence and terror must be replaced.
Your tight grip to white supremacy as a way of ruling and securing your own comfort and success must be replaced.
Your defense of whiteness as the standard of appropriate and acceptable governance must be replaced.
Your understanding of humanity situated in the context of whatever God you claim must be replaced.
And you will be replaced.
With truth: That your “whiteness” was historically constructed in an act of violence and terror and that this is the same violence and terror you continue to use to oppress and marginalize those you fear (out of ignorance). That your beloved land was stolen and that you continue to bombard and steal in the name of progress. That your culture of “whiteness” is one of mediocrity that keeps you in a place of insecurity, spiritual emptiness, and enslaved by your ego.
With love: Demonstrated by the people who work to dismantle the systems of white supremacy and institutional racism that compromise not only the humanity of “the other” but their own. For black souls and minds and hearts and families and communities and lives because, contrary to what you show us on a daily basis, we do matter.
I may not see it in my lifetime, but I am living and working as if I will. I am now living as if I remember a time when white Americans decided to see these symbols and statues for what they are; representations of this nation’s shame and disgrace.