Ignorance or hatred?

Photo credit: Kyle Sampson and I Am More Than. See the Montgomery Advertiser story that this appears in (and more photos) here.

In a blog post back in May, I asked, “Have you ever thought about how there is so much in the world that you don’t know?” And I’ve been thinking about that more lately, in a couple of ways.

In one instance, I think about how that applies to personal growth. I haven’t always been the person I am now, and I hope to be a better person tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, and on and on.

I have offered apologies for past actions or words of which I’m not proud. I think those regrets come with an evolution in thinking, along with introspection, and really, basic human empathy.

In another instance, I think about how that growth and change applies to knowledge and my views on various issues. If we have a desire to continually learn about things and actually care about truth, we will evolve in our thinking. It’s OK if new information makes you rethink a position or change your mind about something.

Going back to the beginning of this: there is so much in the world that I don’t know or didn’t previously know. For example:

Today is Juneteenth. I don’t remember learning anything about that growing up. I don’t remember being taught about it in school. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was at least in college or older before I even knew the word, much less anything about it.

It was this just this week that I had even heard of Seneca Village.

I was an adult before I realized the “Lost Cause” narrative was both wrong and a deliberate attempt to rewrite history.

It was only this month that I finally took the time to actually sit down and make it a point to learn about Malcolm X.

It’s been very recently that I have tried to educate myself more about the history of policing in this country and what the calls to defund or abolish police actually mean. (Hint: It’s a lot deeper than a hashtag.)

I didn’t know about the Tulsa massacre or Black Wall Street until recently.

I literally just learned about the Rosewood massacre today.

Until working on the documentary Remembering Anarcha, I knew very little about J. Marion Sims and the “mothers of gynecology” – Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey.

And even with the level of knowledge that I have gained at this point, I’m still not an expert because there is still so much to learn and so much I don’t know.

So… taking all of that into account, I got to thinking about many of the comments and arguments I’ve seen recently.

I’ve seen some people (mostly people who look like me, honestly) who have expressed how tired they are of everything going on in the world right now, or at least tired of hearing about it (i.e. the Black Lives Matter movement, the removal of Confederate monuments, rebranding Aunt Jemima syrup, etc.) And I think, if they’re tired of hearing about it, how tired are the people living it? I can’t imagine the exhaustion that people of color must be feeling right now.

(And really, the fact that so many people who look like me can go for years – sometimes entire lifetimes – completely unaffected by these racial and policing issues that are prominent in the news is an example of privilege. Yes, white privilege.)

And regarding these conversations I’ve seen recently, I think about motives, and how I attempt to decipher if someone is speaking out of ignorance or hatred, because I think those things are different.

Some people are just hateful, and I don’t think much can be done to help them see any other perspective. I don’t know how to make someone empathize if they don’t have the faintest desire to do so. I’d love to be wrong here, and if you’ve got the patience to try to reach them, by all means, give it a shot; I wish you luck and much success.

In others, however, I think maybe they have a good heart, but haven’t taken the time to actually listen and learn. Maybe they don’t have the experiences that come with a diverse friends group, or maybe they haven’t yet tried to ask questions or learn new things. I hold out hope for those people. I don’t know exactly what it takes to get through, but I do hope that something clicks within them.

And my reasoning for that goes back to what I started out talking about – I wasn’t always the person I am now with the level of knowledge I have at this moment. And hell, again, there’s so much I still don’t know, and I think personal growth is never done.

So maybe I can help someone else understand things that I’ve learned, or at least maybe help them to pause long enough to think about another perspective.

And in the meantime, I can listen to others and try to learn more myself.

Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep reading. Keep listening. Keep working for positive change.

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‘Memorials are not history’

SimsMask

Even ol’ J. Marion Sims is worried about the ‘rona.

Recently, protesters took down the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the high school that bears his name in Montgomery, AL. The U.S. Navy banned all public displays of the Confederate flag, as did NASCAR (yes, I was shocked, too.) And I’ve seen some social media posts describe the removal of these monuments as “erasing history.”

Well… let’s do a little dive into these things.

I’m the director of a documentary film called Remembering Anarcha, and in the film, one of our interviewees – former Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders – says, “Memorials are not history.”

He explains that history is what happened, whereas memorials are symbols that don’t tell the whole story. And personally, as I state in an email that I’ll share below, I think it is important for us, as a society, to carefully examine the parts of history we honor versus the parts of history that we learn from in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

On to the email…

After the Lee statue was removed, a petition was started on Change.org to convince the school board to not return the statue to its pedestal.

A Facebook event was created for people to attend the next Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) board meeting, which then became a Facebook live event (COVID-19, y’all.) The point was to contact and petition the board to keep the Lee statue down, but to also try to rename at least three of the high schools around Montgomery that had been named for Confederates – Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Sidney Lanier.

Below is the email I sent to the MPS board member that serves my district:

Dear [MPS board member]

As a resident of your school board district and an alum of Jefferson Davis High School, I am writing to you to ask that the board not return the statue of Robert E. Lee to its pedestal. In fact, I am requesting that the board go a step further and submit a waiver to the Alabama Memorial Preservation Committee to immediately change the names of the high schools named for Lee, Sidney Lanier, and my alma mater, J.D.

I think it is important for us, as a society, to carefully examine the parts of history we honor versus the parts of history that we learn from in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past.Also, when it comes specifically to Confederate monuments, the time period that most of those were put up is telling, along with them being used to promote the fictional “Lost Cause” narrative. If you have not already seen it, I highly recommend taking seven minutes to watch this short documentary that Vox produced on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOkFXPblLpU

I think that MPS should resolve to be inclusive and forward-thinking, and to use this opportunity to teach, not just students but the larger Montgomery community, the real history behind these monuments and the reasons that removing them and changing the names of these schools is the right and honorable thing to do.

Sincerely,

Josh Carples

First of all, for real, take the seven minutes to watch that Vox video. It’s very interesting. Pay special attention to the time period that most statues were put up. It’s telling. It really is.

And this brings another issue. In 2017, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act that protects statues and monuments that have been in place for 40 years or longer.

That act comes up in Remembering Anarcha as well. The statue of J. Marion Sims at the Alabama Capitol (seen at the top of this post) was erected in 1939 by the Alabama Medical Association, then called the “Medical Association of the State of Alabama,” which author J.C. Hallman (who appears in the film) says in a recent Montgomery Advertiser article, “which is cursed — though one wonders if this was once by design — by the acronym, MASA.”

So anywaaaaaay…

The bottom line is: the Civil War was about slavery.

“No! It was about states’ rights!” (um… states’ rights to own slaves.)

“But it was about economics!” (yeah, the economics of slavery.)

Here’s some reading material:

Five Myths about why the South seceded

And I encourage you to read some of the “Declarations of Immediate Causes” that the Southern state legislatures drew up and voted on. They list clearly their reasons for leaving the Union, and guess what they mention as a big ol’ primary reason – slavery.

Here’s Mississippi’s. “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery –  the greatest material interest of the world.”

Here’s South Carolina’s. “But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.” 

(The word “slavery” comes up in other places as well in that one… oh, and South Carolina also has a statue of Sims on their statehouse grounds.)

But seriously, read them. Find the other states’ reasons for leaving. It’s their words, from their time period. It was about slavery.

Let’s stop – finally – promoting the “Lost Cause” bullshit that’s been fed to most of us Southerners from the time we were born. Let’s learn. Let’s evolve. Let’s stop with the Confederate monument participation trophies that glorify people who wanted to keep human beings enslaved.

Let’s learn from history and stop trying to rewrite it like we’ve seen done since the end of the Civil War.

‘The Time Is Now’

On Saturday, May 30, my buddy Jeff and I headed to downtown Montgomery, AL, for a protest – one of many around the nation (and world) in support of Black Lives Matter and ending police brutality. Of course, this was after the tragic death – more specifically, murder – of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

I brought my camera to capture footage in hopes of putting together a short documentary (similar to the short in·dig·e·nous that I did last year.)

The two-hour event was completely peaceful, with passionate speakers talking about a host of issues. The Montgomery Police Department was there, observing, in their regular uniforms. I point this out because of the stark contrast between how Montgomery PD has handled events like this compared to other cities – Huntsville, AL, for example. Last week, Huntsville PD showed up in riot gear and ended up using tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters. A friend of mine – a photographer documenting the event – was arrested; another friend got tear-gassed. Read more on their use of force here. And here’s a first-hand account of the incident by a Huntsville-area physician.

In contrast, here is a tweet from Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed:

So, back to Montgomery.

I took the footage I shot and put together a short documentary called The Time Is Now. Many thanks to my friend Pro Status for the use of his song “Do Dat,” to my friends Irby Pace and Stephen Poff for the use of their photos, and to my friend Jeff for being my 1st AD on this.

Thanks for watching.

#BlackLivesMatter

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6-3-2020

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