LeBron, racism and Confederate monuments

Friday, June 2, 2017

ďNo matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is ó itís tough. And we got a long way to go for us a society, for us as African-Americans, until we feel equal in America.Ē Those words did not come from an office holder but from a basketball star Ė LeBron James. He made those comments after racist graffiti was sprayed on the gate of his home.

Deplorable? Yes. Is there any room for this in 2017 America? No. Yet, this is commonplace. We canít seem to get past ďthe race thing.Ē

When I heard this story, I shook my head. No human being in this great nation should be consistently subject to racism. Itís beneath us a people. Soon we will celebrate The Declaration of Independence. I believe Iíve read in that document Ė ďall men are created equal.Ē We say as a nation we believe that, but I donít think weíve ever lived out that ideal. It appears these days we donít give the appearance of trying to.

The abhorrence to what happened at Lebron Jamesí home has been clearly voiced in the media and beyond. It should, but now I feel there is a dilemma.

If Iím going to denounce the defacing of Jamesí home, must I also denounce the defacing of a Confederate monument in St. Louis?

Youíve heard of that one. ďBlack Lives MatterĒ and ďEnd RacismĒ were sprayed painted on the 103 year old monument late last week. It was the second time in a week that had happened.

No doubt you know that the mayor of St. Louis wants to get rid of the monument. Cities across the South have done just that Ė removing monuments and statues to the Confederacy. Some, perhaps many, might say that the monument is a lingering reminder of slavery and must be removed Ė thus defacing it is no big deal. It should have been done long ago. That thinking is mere rationalization.

To be consistent, and that is my goal, I must denounce that kind of thing just as much as I denounce what happened at Jamesí home. If one is not right (and itís not), neither is the other. Itís a hate I donít want in my heart that would cause someone to deface an African American basketball playerís property. Itís a hate I donít want in my heart that would cause someone to deface the Confederate monument. Iím bothered by both, and I think I should be.

A consistent ethical argument in my mind is to denounce any form of hate. Both events Iím writing about this week are crimes spawned by hate Ė pure and simple. They must be denounced.

Now I may as well tell you what I think about the anti-Confederacy fervor that is rampant in our country. Iím against removing any monuments anywhere. In every location where there is a monument, there is a reason why it was erected. In many cases, it was to remember those who died fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Tens of thousands did. They may have been on the wrong side. But they were Americans werenít they? Do we just erase their memory?

The history of any nation is a mixed bag. Are we going to remove all the bad? Who is going to decide what part of our history is bad? It may be easy with slavery, but itís not so easy in many other cases.

I learned in a seminary ethics class many moons ago that it was never a good idea to impose modern mores (in this case those of 2017) on generations prior to us (in this case the mid-19th Century and bit beyond). The Confederate monument in St. Louis was erected 103 years ago. There were still Civil War veterans and members of grieving families left at that time. Should we jettison their feelings about those who served and died, just because we disagree with the principles for which they stood? Maybe we should try to understand why they erected such monuments and honor their commitment to keep their loved oneís memory alive?

I know I wrote above Iím philosophically against removing any monuments. But Iím a reasonable man, and I believe in compromise. Hereís my suggestion Ė if we have to move them from where they are. They can be moved from places where others might find them objectionable to a place where people can decide for themselves whether or not they should visit them.

Maybe we could add to compromise some national forgiveness. The Civil War was a long time ago. Letís put the balm of forgiveness on whatever wounds remain (either real or imagined) and move on toward the upward call of ďall men are created equal.Ē

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