Saturday, August 19, 2017

Call it what it really is: a Fetish

This no longer exists.

So this past week, Baltimore City government swooped in and removed four sculptures dedicated to the Confederacy.  Included is this one, Gloria Victis - Glory to Vanquished.

Now it is vanquished, hidden under a plastic tarp in some city owned lot.

Now if you live in the south, and you live near a city, there is probably one or more monuments to the Confederacy.

They do not honor a native son.  They do not mark a battle spot.  And they most likely were erected between 1880 and 1960.

They are, however not statues.

Let's get that clear, right now.

Rodin's Thinker is sculpture.  Lincoln has a Monument.  The statue of Jefferson stands in the Jefferson Monument.

But Glory to the Vanquished is not, I said NOT, a statue.

It is a FETISH.

Say what?

Fetish, but not a sexual thing, right?

Wrong!  Look in Webster's and you'll see that it means more than something prurient.

Fetish: "an object in which magical power is present or in which it believed to exist.  An object of worship imbued with trans-formative meaning, or luck." Etc.

This is why I call them Fetishes.  

They are Fetishes because they were designed, crafted and erected to honor the Confederate leaders, soldiers and people, and reform their reputations and their "cause" into something that was noble to fight for.  They were erected to change the shame of defeat for cause that sold, traded and abused human beings from something shameful into fight for "The Cause" of honor.

Organizations like the Daughters of Confederacy, etc., raised funds and paid for these Fetishes in order to redeem the actions of their fathers, grandfathers, husbands, sons and other family members, transforming them losers and traitors into the "glorious vanquished".  They became symbols that would, over time, rewrite the perception that the Confederate States of America could be forgotten and in place, "The South" became a code word for the CSA, and thus more dignified.  

These bronze Fetishes, were to reform those who committing treason, racism and murder, and perpetuated slavery and the slave trade.

And they did have that transformative power.  As the years passed, White America saw them as -oh, yes -  public art!

"Oh, look!  Sculpture!" I heard a tourist say one day in Wyman Park. Looking at the statue of Lee on a horse that didn't look like General Lee at all.

But these Fetishes had another meaning to Blacks.  And that message was "We may have lost the war, but we control the politics, the wealth, the business and you futures, here.  Don't even think of trying to better yourself."

And that message was clear.

And then Barack Obama was elected President and change couldn't come soon enough, and it didn't.  For as much as I loved President Obama, there was never the resolution of the race problem, there were never discussions that needed to happen.

Then a minority voters, in strategic states elected the current President.  And race erupted after a White woman was killed by a White Supremacist. And when the President failed to guide the nation on this matter, these Fetishes in the south became the focus of the national debate.

They are not great works of art.  They should not be on public lands.  They honor people who sought to tear the nation apart.  They need to go.

They need to go because we need to be free of their powers over some who see these fetishes as keys to their White domination of others.

Let me be clear - getting rid of these monuments is a small step.

Their removal will not make life for Black America easier.  They will not free White Americans from their duty to understand what it really is like to be Black in this nation.   And their removal will not end the segregation of society.

In fact if all that is done is to remove these Fetishes and things go back to "normal" then racism wins.

We will not be free of this burden that every American carries until we move beyond the fits and starts of moving this country forward.

We cannot be a united country until every man, woman and child is valued for who they are, their experiences are heard, validated, and we remove the prejudices we subconsciously commit everyday.

And to those who argue back that we are allowing our history to be rewritten, remind them that when these Fetishes were erected that was when history was rewritten.  And now we are correcting that record.

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