I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia for the first eighteen years of my life, and consider myself only a temporary resident in the fair state of New Jersey, where I go to college. So naturally it hits home when the governor of my home state does something abysmally offensive – although I may need to start getting used to it, at least until Bob McDonnell’s term is up in 2013. I’ve been consistently horrified by him since he started campaigning for the governor’s seat last year, and pleaded with Virginian Care2 readers to do everything to keep him from getting elected last November.
Sadly, he got elected anyway. And he has already begun wreaking havoc declaring during the State of the Union response, “We are blessed here in America with vast natural resources, and we must use them all.” Head. Desk.
But today, he actually managed to top both his master’s thesis, where he said that working women were “detrimental” to the family, and his dubious policies on the environment, when he announced that in Virginia, April will now be “Confederate History Month.” Other governors have done the same, including George Allen, of the infamous “macaca” incident. It does not seem to occur to them that perhaps Virginia’s role during the Civil War is not something that should be…celebrated. Or that doing so might seem, I don’t know, racist.
More shockingly, slavery was mentioned nowhere in McDonnell’s proclaimation. Because clearly, in this version of revisionist history, the Civil War was just about a noble Southern struggle for independence.
Growing up in Virginia, it was hard to avoid the legacies of the Civil War and Reconstruction, particularly the pervasiveness of segregation. I attended an elementary school that closed during massive resistance in 1959, and spent much of my high school career engaging in activism surrounding Charlottesville’s pronounced racial and socioeconomic divisions. This is an issue that upsets me deeply, because my daily experience was marked with the scars of Virginia’s racial turbulence.
Nostalgia for the Confederacy enshrined by our government sends a hateful message to everyone who works to heal the deep racial divides that began when the first slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was known as Lee-Jackson-King Day (because clearly, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson should be praised in the same breath as Dr. King) in Virginia until 2000 – and this is exactly the same kind of statement.
In his statement, McDonnell justified the declaration of the month, saying, “This defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians.” Well, Governor McDonnell, I’m here to tell you that there’s no chance of that. I just wish that April was the only month when we had to be reminded of the racial inequality that still threads through Virginians’ lives.
Photo from WikiTravel.org.
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