“a monumental divide”
Today’s society has accepted faults of the past – outdated ideologies, oppressive systems and institutions, inequitable practices – and has grown in its progressive pursuit of ridding the world of its remnants. In the past decade, Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, once home to numerous confederate statues symbolizing a stark defiance to progressive positive change and an end to racism, bigotry, and oppression, has been rid of all these testimonies to America’s dark and horrendous past – most notably, Robert E. Lee’s statue, which took months of protests and legal resistance to see through. One statue remains on this historical avenue, one that represents change in a positive light: the statue of renowned African American tennis athlete and activist Arthur Ashe. Monuments are meant to immortalize people and events in history that altered the very way society and culture operate. Arthur Ashe was the first, and to this day only, African American tennis player to win the U.S. Open and be rated No. 1 in the world and was an activist that promoted awareness for Aids after he contracted it following a blood transfusion. Ashe exemplified what it meant to be an American, pursing ones passion and taking it to its absolute peak, while being a black man in 20th century America. This is undeniably a person that personified greatness in history. So why is it that in June 2020, white Americans vandalized the statue spray painting “White Lives Matter” across its foundation? What had Ashe done in his history to suggest anything against that claim? Confederate statues were radiant reminders of violent oppression for black Americans and literal testaments to times where their lives were considered less. Destroying those monuments around a movement promoting that “Black Lives Matter” supports a real issue, one rooted in historical opposition to its claim. “White lives matter” or even “All lives matter” is so aggressively misguided in its claim and direction because not only was there never a time in history where there was opposition to white lives, but there WAS a time in which the latter phrase wasn’t true. It’s so blatantly obvious of a phrase that the fact there was a time in which some lives were considered more or less than others is tremendously ignorant of the ugly past America has had. The divide between many white and black Americans today comes from a lack of understanding from white Americans and a rejection of the pursuit of that understanding. It is a matter of misplaced pride, and if white Americans can continue to listen and understand the pain African Americans feel about the exhausting repetition of the past, this monumental divide can be bridged.