Preserve, but don’t glorify, hurtful relics
Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
I am writing in response to Mr. Albert P. Burckard Jr.’s letter (“County’s culture is being canceled,” March 3) in which he lamented the cancellation of his culture. Although he has reason to be unsettled about vandalism and change in his community, saying that the culture is canceled is extreme.
Mr. Burckard is understandably unhappy about the demolition of the Revolutionary War-era house in Pierceville, implying that it was destroyed because of its history. However, according to The Smithfield Times article about the demolition, the house was bulldozed because the upkeep and renovation would be too costly. Although unfortunate, it does not reflect a purposeful attack on Smithfield culture.
He then discusses monuments and their significance to Smithfield culture. He claims that it is government business to memorialize our past. Two questions here: Doesn’t this also mean that it is government business to remove them? And what does he mean by “our”?
“Our” refers to a collective community. In the past, Smithfield was not an integrated community where people of color lived peacefully alongside whites. So I ask, whose past are we honoring? Whose culture was canceled first?
Elements of the Smithfield culture are, in fact, being canceled. Monuments that idolize Confederate values, which, to many, represent white supremacy and oppression, are being removed from the public cultural landscape. If this represents any corner of Smithfield culture, which I hope it does not, then maybe this should be canceled.
There is a difference between a reminder and a monument. The world remembers the Holocaust, but there is no school named after Adolf Hitler. In the interest of honoring history, I suggest that we preserve these artifacts (monuments, street signs and other memorabilia) in museums and that if controversy arises about other things, such as school names, we address those conversations as they come.
If concerned about cancellation of culture, I suggest embracing culture through festivals, museums and other means that don’t oppress the culture of others in your community. For the sake of your neighbors and all future generations, let’s vow to preserve history but not to carry on the culture of intolerance established by our ancestors.
Jessica L. Davis
Christopher Newport University