I am writing in response to Lanny Keller’s “Political panic” column of June 15. Congratulations to anyone who can look at a monument to a deceased racist and maintain an “intellectual” perspective. To anyone more concerned about the legacy of long-dead segregationists than about their lasting contributions to systemic racism: Congratulations, you’re white.
The LSU administration is finally listening to black people who are simply asking that a public institution not honor ideals of segregation. That’s what it comes down to. As a student of history, I can confirm that progress is not made by choosing the parts of the past that we deem convenient.
Asking black people to take Troy H. Middleton’s war record into account — asking us to dismiss his racism as a mere product of the times or to objectively consider him as a nuanced, complex individual — insults our lived experiences as well as our intellectual capabilities. If he were truly committed to anti-Nazi or anti-racist ideals, he would have spent more of his energies and resources combating individual and systemic racism at home. Instead, he chose to protect his position and privilege at the expense of black LSU students and black Louisianans in general.
Moreover, asking black people to set aside our emotional responses to the grand Southern tradition of glorifying racists and glossing over their bigotry is demeaning. Systemic racism is not only white-led police departments murdering people as they sleep (see, for example, Breonna Taylor’s case). It is also white people fighting to preserve traditions of racism while reducing black people to stereotypes but demanding that we consider the racists from all angles.
Systemic racism takes an emotional toll that people who do not experience it will never understand. I am a black woman who had the “n-word” scrawled across a family history project in the seventh grade. I am a black woman who watched my father, who was on the front lines of integration at Jesuit High School in New Orleans, battle unresolved trauma and anger from years of racialized abuse and stress.
You want to talk about George Floyd? I am a black woman who has internalized countless images of Floyd battling for breath for 8 minutes and 46 seconds because a white cop decided he didn’t deserve air. These instances are examples of systemic racism with harmful, real-world consequences.
Do not tell us how to handle our pain. Do not tell us how to manage our anger.