The Crescent Report

April 7, 2010

Virginia Civil Rights Community in Up Roar over Governors decision to commemorate the Confederacy

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 3:46 pm

Intro:

It appears that Virginia Governor has a passion for the old discarded state song, “Carry me back to old Virginia,” a song which portrays Virginia’s days of slavery and racism nostalgically. Check out Ibrahim Ramey’s  Piece and MAS Freedom’s Letter of Protest concerning the Governor’s Commemoration of the Confederacy and the Civil War.

Quote of the Day:

“Look away, look away, Dixie land. In fact, just get away and the hell with Dixie land.”

Virginia Civil Rights Community in Up Roar over Governors decision to commemorate the Confederacy

MAS Freedom joins the State Legislative Virginia Black Caucus, Civil Rights and Interfaith community in opposing Governor Bob McDonnell commemoration of Virginia’s Civil War Confederacy legacy. Below is a letter from MAS Freedom’s Executive Director to the Virginia Governor expressing MASF opposition to the commemoration. MAS Freedom encourages individuals to write the Virginia Governor (Hon. Bob McDonnell, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Patrick Henry Building, 1111 E. Broad Street, Third Floor, Richmond, VA 23219) and express your disapproval of the Virginia Confederacy Commemoration.

MAS Freedom joins the State Legislative Virginia Black Caucus, Civil Rights and Interfaith community in opposing Governor Bob McDonnell commemoration of Virginia’s Civil War Confederacy legacy. Below is a letter from MAS Freedom’s Executive Director to the Virginia Governor expressing MASF opposition to the commemoration. MAS Freedom encourages individuals to write the Virginia Governor (Hon. Bob McDonnell, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Patrick Henry Building, 1111 E. Broad Street, Third Floor, Richmond, VA 23219) and express your disapproval of the Virginia Confederacy Commemoration.

Letter of Virginian Governor

The South May Rise Again-But Racism Will Not Lift It Up

Some Comments on Virginia’s Confederate History Commemoration

Some years ago, then-President Ronald Reagan ignited a storm of trans-Atlantic criticism when he visited a cemetery
in Bitburg, Germany, and laid a wreath in commemoration of German soldiers buried there.

As it turned out however, not all of the World War II veterans buried there were members of the German Wehrmacht (Army).  Some were soldiers of the Waffen-SS (Shutzstaffel), fanatic combatants who swore personal loyalty to Adolf Hitler and committed mass atrocities against Jewish civilians and other non-combatants, particularly in Russia, Poland, the Ukraine, Holland and France. The families and ancestors of the victims of SS atrocities were not silent about this seemingly innocuous wreath-laying event.  And the world was not silent, either.

Of course, the SS and the Confederate Army were different military formations, in different centuries, which fought for different political and military objectives.  But neither of them, despite the bravery of their individual soldiers, fought for a righteous cause.  And now, the new Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, has announced that he will commemorate Confederate History Month in Virginia. This declaration, sadly, is proving to be a major embarrassment not only for the Governor and the Commonwealth of Virginia, but for any and all of us who abhor the historical legacy of racism and oppression in Virginia, and the nation.

Make no mistake about it:  beneath the facade of gentile Southern hospitality and charm, there is a profound legacy of racial division (and white supremacy) that undergirds Virginia’s history.  The preservation of the institution of slavery, and the continued subjugation of people of African ancestry was an integral part of the Confederacy, and those sentiments remain intact in the world view of at least some of the governor’s white constituents.

A celebration of Confederate History Month may indeed resonate with some of them.  But for the descendants of enslaved Africans, the lifting up of a legacy of racism and oppression evidenced by the secessionist movement of the 1860’s will only bring up bitter memories, and reinforce the notion that the (more) conservative Right side of the political spectrum is moving closer to the racial divisiveness that frames much of our current social and political discourse.

President Reagan may have been surprised that Waffen-SS soldiers were buried in that German graveyard, but Governor McDonnell knows all to well about the sentiments that African-Americans, and all justice-loving people, share about the history of slavery and racism.  Unless, he wants to throw his political party into the abyss of this sad and unjust legacy, he should cancel his plan to commemorate a Confederacy that stood for ideas that none of us should be proud of.

My position, though, is not about a “liberal” attack on a “conservative” proclamation, but rather, a principled condemnation of celebrating the wrong thing. There may be many things about Virginia’s history that are worthy of praise and admiration.  But the commemoration of a 19th Century secessionist movement that perpetuated human oppression and injustice should not be among them.

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