“…with liberty and justice for all.”
When the pledge to the United States flag is recited, do you stand at attention, place your hand or hat over your heart and recite it word for word?
Anyone who considers themselves a patriot could answer only one way, with a resounding ”yes.”
Once you’re done, do you then proceed with your life in a manner that ensures those last, critical six words?
If not, may I suggest a re-examination of your patriotism.
For whatever reason, there is not a confederate monument on the south side of the Wood County courthouse, so we are spared the arguments about erasing or rewriting history.
Anyone remotely familiar with the history of the American Civil War knows that its history is extensively recorded and on public display.
I’ve been to Gettysburg; Shiloh; several historic sites in Franklin, Tenn.; Pea Ridge, Ark.; and Vicksburg, Miss., as well as Stone Mountain, Ga.
That history is not, and will not, be erased. It is well-preserved and brilliantly told.
And if the rewriting of history argument comes up, please don’t forget that these statues were erected for the very purpose of rewriting history.
What we need to examine is the reasons some monuments have been erected and whether stereotypes that devalue one race or group that have been allowed to persist should also take their rightful place in the past.
The past cannot be changed. But we can always build and improve on our legacy.
The legacy of the town where I grew up was not a good one, but it has changed for the better and continues to do so.
Recently, the Denton County commissioners voted to have the confederate statue on the south side of the courthouse removed.
The statue has been a contentious issue for years. A few years back, after a committee came up with recommendations, commissioners decided to leave the statue but add historical context through other markers or displays.
The statue placed by the Daughters of the Confederacy decades after the war was not the only vestige of Denton’s racist past.
The elementary schools when I was growing up included Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee – names or schools that no longer exist.
But the most odious vestige is that of Quakertown.
During my youth it was a city park. It housed the city swimming pool and the civic center. I attended birthday parties there, played my first year of Little League on its field and watched my father play for the church fast-pitch softball team on the same diamond, and attended high school dances at the civic center.
Today it is called Quakertown Park.
Its history did not become known to many residents until the last couple decades or so.
By an unfortunate accident of geography, Quakertown was located northeast of the downtown area, which put it squarely between the campus of Texas Woman’s University and movies, shopping and the bus and train depots.
City fathers decided the safety of the white co-eds required action and used some sort of forced eminent domain to relocate Quakertown in the 1920s to an area of southeast Denton – across the tracks.
Quakertown had been a thriving Black community of homes and businesses. And it was simply erased.
Southeast Denton’s streets did not become paved until the early ‘70s after a multi-racial group of Christian women petitioned the city.
There is so much more to tell, but the bottom line is this: Any behavior, any monument, any symbol, any rule (written or understood) that does not provide liberty and justice for all has no place in the United States of America.
I think Lillian Richard, the Hawkins lady who made a successful career of playing the role of Aunt Jemima to promote pancakes, might agree.
Her legacy is assured, even if the brand name is going away. Because her legacy is not about symbols. It is about the actions that she took to become a successful Black woman during a time when that was no easy thing to do.
It is a story to be celebrated and lifted up, just as we all should lift up each other during these difficult times.