Something About the White Supremacy Memorial
If you haven’t heard, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice has opened in Montgomery, Ala. The feature is the first ever memorial “dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence” according to the official website.
Visitors to the six-acre location can see 800 steel columns, each representing a county in the U.S. with the names of the people who were lynched there, soil samples from confirmed lynching sites, as well as other sculptures and art “to contextualize racial terror”. The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg inspired the project.
While I think the memorial is great, I really have to ask: is America ready to have such a memorial? Or better yet, is America even willing to have such a memorial?
A memorial invokes the idea that a party holds some form of sadness, resentment, and apology. There is guilt and a physical memorial serves to remind the public that such atrocities should never be repeated, as is the case of the Holocaust and apartheid. Guilt on behalf of the offending party is a natural association.
One look at news headlines any given day reveals that racism is alive, persistent, and nasty. The “playing field” has not once been equal on any grounds. In 2018 we not only remember Emmitt Till but also Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland all the names that make up a continuously growing list of unjustly murdered Black people.
When asked “why build a memorial to victims of racial terror” on their website then answer, “a history of racial injustice must be acknowledged, and mass atrocities and abuse must be recognized and remembered, before a society can recover from mass violence”.
America is not sorry for the unsightly blemish that has infected the country since it’s founding. Never once has there even been an official apology on the behalf of anyone. And I don’t understand how art will make non-Black Americans acknowledge these atrocities when the proof is in front of their eyes even now.
So again I ask, how can such a tribute to atrocities exist when the world is watching us die?