I am proud to be a Virginian. Virginia is incredibly beautiful. I have visited Ireland, Israel, northern Minnesota, Montana, Mexico, and Arizona. To this day I have yet to find a place more beautiful than the Shenandoah valley. Virginia has a rich history. The first college in America, William and Mary, was established in Williamsburg. Jamestown, the first successful British colony in the United States, is just a few miles from that. More presidents hail from Virginia than any other state, including George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. The education I have received here is phenomenal. The weather—albeit it horribly humid—changes wonderfully with each season. My family has lived in Virginia since the eighteenth century. I live in Newport News and I have relatives in Roanoke, Richmond, Fairfax, and Charlottesville. My dad went to Virginia Tech, my mom went to JMU, my brothers and I went to CNU, and I have friends at every other major state school. This is my home and I have much to be proud of. For all of these reasons, and others, I feel I must voice my thoughts and feelings on what happened this past weekend.
Concerning the recent events in Charlottesville, I cannot afford the luxury of staying silent. Let me be clear and concise. As a proud Virginian, a white conservative, and a Christian, I am appalled at white supremacy. The thought of hating someone for as trivial a reason as skin color is petty and evil. Do I think that civil war monuments should be torn down and high schools renamed because of their ties to the civil war? No, not necessarily. Do I think for a second that protecting civil war monuments is worth the division, anger, and pain that they stir, and now also the lives that have been taken? Absolutely not. Take down the statues if we must. Hurry up and label white supremacists as terrorists. Nazis are not protected by the constitution. I don’t care what they claim about their citizenship; if someone claims to be a Nazi they are an enemy of the United States. As far as I’m concerned, throw them in a prisoner of war internment facility.
My grandfather’s great-grandfather fought in the civil war. He was a Virginian. He was a white farmer. He owned no slaves. He did own a horse. He fought for the confederacy. He rode with J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry to the battle at Gettysburg, and thanks to a fateful wrong turn, missed the battlefield by several miles. By the time my ancestor and his comrades realized their mistake, corrected their course, and arrived at the battle, the day was decided. This story has been passed down from generation to generation. I’ll tell it to my children and their children one day.
My grandfather’s great-grandfather was likely racist. He fought for a government who’s primary justification of existence was to defend the institution of slavery. If you disagree with me, you’re wrong. It’s that simple. I’ve done the research. I’ve read the secession declarations of Virginia, South Carolina, and other states. The civil war was fought over state’s rights, yes. The most important right was the right to slavery. That is made explicitly clear. I am not proud of my ancestor’s likely beliefs. I am disgusted by the stance and actions of southern states. As an American citizen, a descendent of a confederate soldier, and most importantly, as a Christian, I never want to honor what my ancestor and my state did. I also never want to forget. This nation must learn how to remember the confederacy in a manner that does not honor it. If monuments are too indicative of honor, destroy them. I don’t believe they are. At least, they don’t have to be. But if I am wrong, remove them.
This past weekend, I went the Dulles Expo center for a massive video game competition. As I walked among thousands of people of every race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, I felt uncomfortable because I looked no different than the young, well-dressed, white men that paraded in Charlottesville holding Nazi flags. I genuinely feared what others would think of me based on what race I was and how I dressed. I feared what they might say or do. I know that the fear and the discomfort I felt are fleeting and microscopic compared to the fear and discomfort others experience every moment of their lives in this country. Black people, hispanic people, asian people, muslim people. Many others. I am deeply sorry. No one should ever feel this way. Not in my city. Not in this state. Not in this country.
My ancestor fought for the protection of slavery and the oppression of black Americans. Perhaps he fought because of personal conviction. Perhaps he fought because if he hadn’t he would have been arrested. Whatever his justification—racism, fear, state pride, a sense of duty—he was wrong and he supported evil. I pray I have the courage and wisdom to not make the same mistake. I wasn’t in Charlottesville this past weekend, but I promise you this: the next time these Nazis and white-supremacist terrorists come knocking in a Virginia city, I’ll be there. If it’s war these people want, I’ll fight them the only way I know how: with peace and truth, with shouts and prayers. Let no more blood be shed over these monuments. Let no one keep silent in the face of evil.