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Angel of oppression or healing?

My Turn – Anna Brown

The debate and ultimate decision to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol has led to a ripple effect of re-evaluating the existence of any remnants of the Southern side of the Civil War. Nearly all Confederate monuments or namesakes are being scrutinized and blamed for contributing to racial tensions, from the carving at Stone Mountain in Georgia all the way to Salisbury’s statue of Fame.

The difference between the Confederate flag and Fame are stark. The confederate flag is a political symbol of a government that fought to maintain slavery — and lost. Since then, the flag has been further marred as a result of the KKK and other white supremacists and hate groups claiming the flag to represent their efforts to expand oppression. The value many Southerners find in the Confederate flag as a symbol of bravery and determination of the common Southerner during the Civil War is forfeited by the deplorable politics and oppression it also represents.

In contrast to the flag, Fame truly embraces the experience of the common Southerner during a most tumultuous time in American history. The slain soldier she holds is not a politician, a general, or even a wealthy plantation owner who stands to reap hardy benefits from slavery. He is a common soldier, memorializing the many others like him who lived simple lives in Rowan County until they were swept up in the obligation of war to defend their families and livelihoods.

Like so many Southerners, I grew up hearing stories of my own family’s history from my grandfather. One story is forever etched in my mind and in my heart. He recounted his own grandfather telling him about being a young boy and peaking through the cracks of a wall in his house. As he peered out, he watched Union soldiers burn the family’s barn to the ground and lead the family’s livestock into the distance. With the men of the family away fighting the war, his mother was left with nothing to farm the land or to sustain her little family other than faith, grit and determination.

Fame represents this little boy, his mother, and the men who had already set out in defense of the most noble causes — family and livelihood. Fame is not a memorial to Jefferson Davis or his politics, but an homage to and remembrance of the fallen and those who somehow survived those dark days of American history.

So instead of dismantling Fame and casting a dark shadow on the memory of the many Rowan County men, women and children who were faced with the painful reality of the Civil War, create inclusiveness in remembrance. The addition of a new monument could be a way to recognize, remember and honor the African Americans who, in the midst of civil war, found new freedom and began the crucial journey toward civil rights and a more just society.

Anna Brown is a Salisbury native and long-time resident who now works as a social worker in Durham.

My Turn” submissions should be 500-700 words. Send to letters@salisburypost.com with “My Turn” in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and digital photo.

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