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  • Madeline Ryan Smith

Happy Juneteenth!

Updated: Jun 19, 2022

As a white woman, I try every year to learn something new about black history on Juneteenth. Being an ally to any minority group is so important, but white individuals have an obligation to combat racism in 2022. The first step? Learn the true history of America. To understand where we’ve been and where we’re going, we must start with the foundation.

This weekend, I watched the most informative documentary on Netflix called “Who We Are”. The film presents similar to a TedTalk, but dives into the unknown history of our founding fathers, and sheds light on how America was built on a foundation of slavery. Jeffery Robinson, who is an attorney and civil rights activist takes you on a history lesson from the American Revolution through the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.

I learned so many things in just this short time and watching this film made me reflect heavily on our state of Georgia, and the things we accept as normal in District 158.

The most impactful scene to me was addressing the confederate monuments we have in the south. The fact is, confederate monuments don’t only exist in the south, but nation wide and honor confederate soldiers during the civil war. These monuments specifically cite battles and military leaders that fought against our nation, fought for slavery, and fought to leave the union in order to maintain their economic prosperity. The catch is that their economic prosperity was reliant on slave labor. Whichever way you cut it, the civil war was about slavery one way or the other; because of economic want, or discrimination and racism. These two motives are not mutually exclusive.

This made me wonder how many confederate monuments we have in District 158, or how many streets/areas are named after confederate soldiers. We have quite a few that were created between 1900-1920. My immediate thought is -Why? These are not messages or people we should want to glorify, but remember so we can learn from their mistakes.

Many groups advocate for the removal of these confederate monuments, but I offer a different solution; change them. Change the monuments from an Honor, to a reminder. Erect new monuments honoring the lost lives of African Americans in the South, an educational landmark teaching about the wrongs of slavery, or even prominent civil rights activists from that era. Similar to how Germans remember WW2 and Hitler. They did not tear down the coliseum or the Große Straße, but did not memorialize them either - they are now museums that educate individuals on the horrors of the Nazi Reich, so Germany never forgets their mistakes and no one else does either. This could be a very simple solution to adjust what symbols we show the world. Symbolism sends a message, and honoring individuals who‘s messages were pro-slavery and racist is not the America we want to show the world. However, as the law stands now, it is unlawful to make these changes in Georgia. This is almost more of a reason to learn, reflect and listen to our own history.

The thing about discrimination to any group however, is that there is always opportunity for learning and change. A person can always change their way of thinking or views.

You may not agree with everything I’ve written, but at least you read it. Maybe you have questions about history, or maybe questions about the African American experience in America. Ask them. Listen. Reflect. I definitely learned something new. Maybe we all could.

I encourage anyone reading this to watch the film, which can be found on most streaming platforms, in stores and online to rent/buy.


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