A few months ago, I was leaving a store when I noticed a truck plastered with Confederate flag bumper stickers. One of the stickers stated, “DEPORT ILLEGALS.” I was immediately struck by the irony of the statement. Considering the fact that Confederates were traitors, they should be what we refer to as illegal.
I know that removing Confederate statues, flags and monuments won’t end structural racism. I know that removing Confederate flags won’t end police brutality. I know that the broken statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis won’t heal the wounds of oppression.
But I still want to watch them fall.
I want to see them crumble in bits. I want to see them flung into the water. I want the heads knocked off and graffiti to cover their names.
The point that many are missing, is that the existence of these statues and monuments is an act of terrorism itself.
I grew up in Milledgeville, GA, a small town that at one point was the capital of Georgia. I grew up surrounded by Confederate flags, it was normalized. White students would wear their Confederate flag shirts to school with no issue, while Black students were reprimanded for wearing FUBU. In the 6th grade, I attended Georgia Military College Preparatory School, located at the Old Capitol Building where Georgian politicians voted to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. I attended school on those grounds.
After school, many of us would go to the Mary Vinson Memorial Library to study. The library is named after the wife of Congressman Carl Vinson, a segregationist that signed onto The Southern Manifesto. The manifesto was drafted and signed by southern politicians who were angry with the Supreme Court’s Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka ruling that racially segregating schools was unconstitutional. Across the street, from the library was a statue dedicated to Confederate soldiers. According to the Union Recorder, Milledgeville’s local newspaper, the monument was “constructed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s (UDC) Robert E. Lee Chapter and first unveiled in 1912.”
Surrounding the statue was a small plot of cotton that grew in the spring and summer. Yes, they had a plot of cotton growing around a Confederate monument when I was 12 years old.
The UDC chapter still exists. A few years ago the monument was hit by a car and instead of removing the memorial, the chapter was excited for the opportunity to rebuild it.
Inside the Mary Vinson Memorial Library was a glass encasement of Confederate memorabilia. I used to stand underneath the light where the uniform medals shone. Here I was, a little Black girl from Georgia, my surroundings at odds with my existence. For the sake of history, as some would say.
A few years earlier, my grandmother told me the story of how my family escaped from sharecropping when she was a small child. My great-grandparents Flossie and George Wilder fled with their children until they reached Augusta, GA where they lived the rest of their days. It seems like a long time ago, except that Flossie and George were still alive when I was born. In fact, I have fond memories of great-granddaddy teaching me about money and great-grandmama chewing her snuff, despite his disapproval.
George died when I was a little girl but Flossie lived until I was a sophomore in college. My mother remembers my great-grandfather still being paranoid, of white men potentially capturing him, when she was a child.
He lived with a reality that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren had often misunderstood. We weren’t just surrounded by flags and monuments. The world around George and Flossie served as a constant threat and reminder of the terror of slavery and sharecropping. The world around them celebrated terrorists. Years had passed, yet still, the world around me did the same.
I don’t want that for my daughters.
Protestors against police brutality and systemic racism have every right to knock these monuments down if local municipalities and the federal government refuse to do so.
It’s time for America to deport Confederates, send them back to the land of defeat. Remember them as they were, terrorists, enslavers, traitors, and losers. It’s long been time to watch them crumble.
Neo-slavery, neo-colonialism, wage slavery, systemic anti-Black racism, and oppression – I’m looking forward to all of those crumbling too.
Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor