On July 3rd, I heard a speech delivered by the President of the United States and have never been so embarrassed to be a citizen of this great country. Trump’s total denial of our country’s treatment of our Black citizens, his glorification of Confederate monuments, and his absurd claims that the removal of those monuments is rewriting history makes him unfit to be President. The reality is that removing these monuments would help us tell a more honest version of history.
I have three grandsons. This past summer, I invited them to take a weekend road trip with me to Paris, Texas in Lamar County where I grew up. We went to the courthouse and saw the giant Confederate monument erected in 1903. We also saw the smaller monuments commemorating World War I and II. I showed them my father’s name on the WWI monument and the names of my two brothers on the WWII monument. I explained that the purpose of the Confederate monument was to intimidate Black citizens and prolong segregation. Since that trip, I have made an effort to learn more about the history of Lamar County and the treatment of its Black citizens.
In the article, “The worst Lynching in Texas History,” E. R. Bills tells the story of Herman and Ervin Arthur, brothers who were burned alive in July of 1920. Herman served his country in World War I only to return to Lamar County under the Jim Crow South. The brothers decided to move their families but were stopped by their armed employer who shot at them as they tried to leave. The property owners were killed and Herman and Arthur escaped. The brothers, however, were captured later and burned alive on the fairgrounds in Paris, Texas, before a crowd of 3,000 citizens. The burned bodies were then dragged through the town.
The monument stood as a warning to Herman and Ervin who were brave enough to fight for a better life and continues to stand as a threat to communities of color and allies working for a better future.
Neither of the Trump twins, Donald or Jodey, want to speak out against racism. Donald embraces it while Jody tries to cover it up with platitudes. As we continue to remember and honor our independence, we need to reject all forms of racism and make every effort to correct our mistakes.