The "Open Carry" of Moderate White Supremacy
I was recently in Pioneer Park in Downtown Dallas.
"Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery is the final resting place of six Dallas Mayors, three War of 1812 Veterans, nine heroes of the Texas Revolution, twenty-nine (one Union & twenty-eight Confederate) Civil War Veterans, fourteen Peters Colonists, five members of the La Reunion French Colony, four Colonels of the Confederacy, two County Judges, two District Judges, two notable historical women, one State Senator, one Lieutenant Governor & numerous other city & county officials of the earliest governments of Dallas County, including early doctors, lawyers, clergymen, merchants, fallen law enforcement officers & firemen, engineers, business leaders, mothers & children. The epitaphs & artwork of the monuments honoring loved ones long gone meant something to those left behind. The markers that have withstood the years, elements & vandals remain as a tangible link to Dallas' past.” (http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pioneerparkcem/index.html)
It’s a beautiful cemetery because time weathers stone in beautiful ways. It’s also one of the few green spaces one can find in a city like Dallas. Among other “tangible links to Dallas’ past” is the now infamous Confederate War Memorial.
It’s a stark and aggressive image: an obelisk on top of which is an image of a confederate soldier, with four towering figures of the Confederate army of the 19th century: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and Albert Johnson. They all face out as if to challenge anyone to approach. Some of the inscriptions on this memorial say: "This stone shall crumble into dust ere the deathless devotion of Southern women be forgotten.” or, "“The Confederate sabreur kissed his blade homeward riding on into the mouth of hell.” I find these inscriptions ironic, because if one did not have a grasp of American history, one would have thought that the confederate army had won based on the grandeur of this monument. For all intents and purposes, this memorial like many others is a giant century-old participation trophy. A trophy that celebrates a failed war effort whose sole purpose was to preserve the economy of slavery—ironically, with the lives of landless non-slave-owning whites.
Before I go any further, I believe whole heartedly that these monuments must go. I say this as a white person who is a descendant of the Scotch-Irish, Appalachian mountain dwelling South. I am sure I could find Confederate participation in my genealogy. As a citizen of Dallas, I have two particular monuments in mind for removal: the 121 year old Confederate War Memorial and the monument to General Lee at Lee Park in Uptown Dallas, once named Oak Lawn Park. A new effort, spearheaded by the author of the excellent book “White Metropolis,” Dr. Micheal Phillips, seeks to pressure city officials to remove these monuments. I recently attended a rally at the Confederate War Memorial to support this effort with some other United Methodist clergy and other folks—alongside some lively counter protesters bearing confederate flags and confederate pride.
Pioneer Park Cemetery--a counter protestor clashes with the Rev. Dr. Micheal Waters. Thursday, August 10, 2017. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News) (Ryan Michalesko/Staff Photographer)
It wasn’t until the black male preacher (the Rev. Dr. Micheal Waters) began speaking that confederate pride turned into confederate rage. Catcalls and challenges began to interrupt Waters’ remarks until a person, possibly the leader of this contingent emerged. He calmly tried to ask for an opportunity to speak his side of things. He was openly carrying a holstered pistol to his side. And this is the metaphor for 21st century white supremacy. You see, the arguments for keeping these memorials and maintaining this worldview are benign and calmly presented in the clothing of historicity and moderation. But this worldview, and this position that many white people continue to take regarding the confederate effort to maintain the economy of slavery in the United States is still an openly holstered pistol that our black siblings absolutely notice. You might be smiling and calmly speaking, but the holstered pistol of a worldview--knowing or unknowingly adopted--that represents the violence of white supremacy over black lives, white ownership of black people and white voices still continuing to shout out that black lives are not equal to white lives is still in plain view.
This is why these monuments must go. They represent hatred and racism far more than any monument to the memory of our ancestors’ lost lives on the battlefields of the Civil War. For if we truly cared about the lives of confederate soldiers, then the beautifully weathered 19th century headstones of confederate soldiers in Pioneer Park Cemetery would be as pristinely manicured as the monument that celebrates the war that resulted in their deaths.