‘Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned and now universally loved Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid.
“If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.”
So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.
The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.
As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history.
Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause.
Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right; let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds … to do all which may achieve and cherish—a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”’
I’m not thinking about going anywhere. Maybe this is surprising because of the already large increase in reported hate incidents since the election. Maybe this is surprising because I am the child of a refugee from the Nazis who managed to escape just in time whose parents were not able to leave because they left it until it was just too late. Despite all this and the dark reality we have arrived in and the previously unimaginable darkness ahead of us I am not thinking of leaving and these are the reasons why:
Because dissent and bearing witness to injustice is a patriotic duty and expressing love for your country is something that you do when it is hard and not just when things are going well for you.
Because if the idea of inclusiveness, of full citizenship for all and not just for the members of one ethnic / national group, dies here where it was created, then it dies everywhere. Then there is ultimately nowhere safe to go to, or at least nowhere to go to where it will be possible to live without a permanently packed bag.
Because leaving and running to somewhere we feel is safe is a privilege that is not shared by tens of millions of less privileged vulnerable Americans who are counting on us to to stand by them and speak out with them.
Because when the Nazis came for my family they were vulnerable because no one was left to stand by them.
Because as Americans we have the example of our forbears who have stood against much greater darkness in the past who did not run and doubled down to force a flawed nation to try harder to live up to its founding principles.
There may be a time to leave – My family should have run much sooner – But this is not it.
We stay because we have the example of the descendents of enslaved people who maintained their dignity as human beings through centuries of racial injustice and stood up and marched and bore witness to injustice and awoke the conscience of a nation.
We stay because they did this in the face of solid organized state repression, Hoover’s FBI, lynchings, bombings of churches and other acts of domestic terrorism and the original overwhelming indifference of the majority of white America.
We stay because of the those who travelled south and stood by them and withstood beatings, dogs and the threat of renewed McCarthyism.
If they could rise up and stare down what they faced then and bear witness to injustice then what we are being asked to do now and what we are facing ahead of us are small things. We stay.