Let’s not rush just to get the situation wrong

Published 8:11 pm Tuesday, May 18, 2021

By Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded on the beliefs embodied in the Constitution of the United States of America. We support democracy, dignity and freedom.

Members of the NAACP stand against all forms of injustice. The United States of America, built by us all, belongs to all of us. The repayment for our labor is equity and justice for all. The NAACP will continue to fight for justice until all, without regard to race, gender, creed or religion enjoy equal status.

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The vision of the NAACP is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights and there is no racial hatred or racial discrimination. The mission of the NAACP is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality or rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.

Notably, the act of terror instituted by Dylann Roof on the nine people he murdered on June 17, 2015, at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, sparked a nationwide movement to remove Confederate monuments, flags and other symbols from the public square, and to rename schools, parks, roads and other public works that pay homage to the Confederacy. Public officials across the country responded to the national mourning of the nine killed and outcry by removing prominent public displays of its most recognizable symbol. These symbols glorify treason and a hateful history of white supremacy and black subjugation.

In order for our country to move forward — to become a nation united and free from inequity and bigotry — we must remove Confederate symbols from the parks, schools, streets, counties and military bases that define America’s landscape and culture.

On Aug. 20, 2017, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson spoke out condemning Confederate imagery as a symbol of hate that should not be venerated. This brings us to Mr. Lee Ford’s presentation to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Natchez.

A response to Mr. Ford’s request should spark a deep and abiding conversation “about the values and beliefs shared by a community,” in this case, the City of Natchez and Adams County.

A rush to respond, to get ahead of the issue, to throw some other symbol up in response to the request without significant input from the marginalized group is not the answer.

A task force to study the deep wounds of systemic racism, the Civil Rights Movement, the Jim Crow years and of course what started everything — the institution of slavery in America and specifically in Natchez, Mississippi. The true story of the history of this community — this is what is needed — a true conversation about our beliefs and exposure to our collective feelings around everything in this community that relates to the institution of slavery and its continued consequences in 2021 and forward in this nation and this community.

Let’s not rush to once again get the issue and situation wrong.

Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis is president of the Natchez Branch of the NAACP.