Following is a letter penned by Mara Eve Robbins, a one time Floyd resident and community activist who has worked tirelessly in the anti-Pipeline movements across the country. She is also a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
There were a lot of things I didn’t know before 2015 brought racist flags out of people’s yards and basements and onto the streets of my hometown after the terrible shooting in Charleston where nine black people in a bible study group were murdered by Dylann Roof. There were a lot of things I didn’t know before witnessing riot gear on the streets of my hometown in 2017 when there was a “rally and ride for confederate pride” in early September while we still grieved the tragedy in Charlottesville. There were a lot of things I didn’t know before the death of George Floyd brought the realities of racism in America undeniably before the eyes of conscientious people everywhere.
Yet once I know? I cannot UN-know.
Given that the population of Floyd is predominantly white, it’s important to acknowledge that when white people allow symbols and representations of slavery, colonization and other cruel portions of our history to continue a legacy of violence, intimidation and oppression that we are complicit in their continuation. Passively allowing a confederate monument to be centered at our courthouse is an example of something I hear often right now: “white silence is white violence.”
The statues delivered by the Daughters of the Confederacy to communities across the south were intended to be a threatening presence. They towered over our better selves and better intentions, threatening the black community and others when a physical presence of authority (such as a police officer) was not present. They promote, perpetuate and emphasize white supremacy. If you have lingering doubts? According to the publication Facing South: “Sixty-one years after the end of the Civil War, the UDC constructed a memorial to the Ku Klux Klan outside of the city of Concord, North Carolina.”
And yet over and over again, there are some in Floyd who present their own experience of the monument and the racist flag as facts. I do not deny people their personal truths or favorite stories, often passed down through families and often overlooking racism altogether, even if I disagree. There are still some in Floyd who strongly disagree with the facts. But disagreement does not equate accuracy. By all means, this narrative must be challenged.
Our actual history and heritage in Floyd County is nuanced and complex. It deserves to be honored through celebration of diversity, inclusion and compassion. What we inherit from our ancestry, though it is part of our heritage, can also be laden with trauma and maladaptive habits. Do we choose to look the other way when faced with the uncomfortable realities of our own racism? Or do we work together as friends and neighbors to learn, grow and prosper as families and beloved community? Simply knowing that we have white privilege is not enough. We must be willing to leverage that privilege to help create justice for everyone.
Because once you know? You cannot UN-know.
Removing the unknown soldier from the courthouse lawn will make many things known. It will be made known that the citizens of Floyd County no longer tolerate symbols of racism. It will be made known that we will not be bullied and abused into silence by the presence of white supremacy in our community or our government. And it will facilitate previously unknown stories to make their way from the shadows of our dark past into the light where healing can begin.
Knowing what we now know, it is evident that the unknown common soldier does not represent the Floyd we all know and love. Local leaders must take swift action to immediately remove this racist monument from our public ground. I fervently hope that those who disagree with this action find compassion in their hearts for those who have been brutalized by racism and choose to change their minds. I hope they do not create another “lost cause” battle of division and unnecessary separation. I hope they are able to understand that in order to preserve the peace, the statue must be removed. It is time. #TakeItDown.
Mara Eve Robbins