Painful Reminders

RECEIVED Fri., June 19, 2015

Dear Editor,
    I'm heartbroken by the tragedy that has happened in Charleston. If you are also feeling the loss of these lives, then please join me in asking the University of Texas at Austin to remove all Confederate symbols and statues from the campus [“Written in Stone,” News, May 29].
    A statue may seem meaningless or harmless, but these icons of a racist ideology have long been used to intimidate and harass African-Americans all over the United States. The potency of these symbols which venerate slave owners and the genocidal violence that they committed is particularly deplorable to me, as an African-American alumnus.
    The Ku Klux Klan and other racist vigilante groups were founded by former Confederate soldiers. Currently, the Southern Poverty Law Center tracks contemporary hate groups who uphold the violent legacy of the Confederacy and hold fast to its symbols. The massacre of parishioners attending a prayer meeting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a continuation of the violence that the Confederacy carried out in the mid-19th century, which was later taken up by the KKK and other white supremacist organizations.
    Members of my family have lived in Texas since the 1870s, so these symbols are potent reminders of the long and arduous fight for civil rights and the continued fight for equal protection under the law.
    I understand that some members of the UT-Austin community support the preservation of Confederate statuary as historic monuments, important markers of what has passed. Yesterday, it became clear to me that the violence and dogma upheld by the Confederacy continue to live in the hearts of minds of misguided Americans. Therefore, these statues no longer represent a historical past but a contemporary philosophy that intends to annihilate African-American people, even the elders in their house of prayer.
    The University of Texas at Austin must take a stand based on the values that it currently upholds. It is an impossible contradiction that the university honors the Confederacy while seeking to create a safe, welcoming learning environment for all students.
Jennifer Steverson
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