Rebecca Reed – Editor
It is seven AM–time for school. Reluctantly, you pull into the school parking lot. Surprisingly, a truck in the school parking lot has a flag with the Nazi Swastika on it. You report it to the office, and the truck is taken off of school grounds, yet there are still flags and other symbols of the Nazi party littering your town.
Who would want to fly that flag? Your peers justify it as a way to honor the lives lost on the losing side of World War II. Displays even go as far as statues honoring Adolf Hitler. You cannot help but think how offensive these signs must be towards your Jewish peers.
Now replace all of these symbols, flags and statues with Confederate symbols. The Civil War was fought between the South and the North. In US History classes, we are taught to recognize the Civil War as a war based on slavery.
The South lost. Slaves were freed. Nearly two centuries later, Confederate symbols seem to be around every corner. According to research conducted by Southern Poverty Law Center, there are at least 1,503 Confederate symbols in public spaces.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People reports that 4,743 lynchings occurred between 1882 to 1968. 3,446 of these people were African American. Most of the white people were lynched because they assisted African Americans in their fight for equality.
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) noticed that while there were plenty of statues to honor Confederate soldiers, there was not a single memorial, flag or symbol to honor those who were lynched. The EJI decided to do something about this; in 2018, Montgomery, Alabama, will be home to the first ever national memorial dedicated to the lives lost to lynching.
It will be named the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. As visitors travel farther inside the building, the memorial will take them on a journey that recognizes these lynchings.
Visitors will be surrounded by columns, and as they walk into the building, the ground will begin to lower. Soon enough, the columns will be suspended in the air–symbolizing the lynchings.
These columns will represent lynchings that took place in 800 counties. Over 4,000 names will be engraved in the columns. At the center of the memorial, visitors will stand on a hill. Surrounding them will be the suspended columns–the dead judging the living, we are forced to recognize our nation’s history despite its ugliness.
Around the building will be more columns; these lie in rows. These columns are thought to be in purgatory, awaiting each county that has had a history of lynching to claim one to acknowledge its heinous actions.
This memorial is the first measure being taken to honor the lives that were lost because of hatred. There are more steps that can be taken to continue to honor these lives, and I hope that our society will take them. For now, I would like to thank the EJI for taking the first step in this long journey to recovery.