antiracism & racial justice, Charlottesville

Remove the Statue: The Struggle to Regain Lost Humanity

Dear Mayor Signer;

I hope you feel shame. I hope you could not sleep last night. I hope you stayed awake wondering why you shut down citizens who were telling you to your face that you are failing them. I hope you are struggling to regain the humanity that you have lost. Because by dehumanizing other people, you dehumanize yourself. I was dehumanized by just sitting in the City Council meeting, too. Now I am struggling to regain my humanity. Now I can’t sleep.

I lost my humanity in the name of decorum. I wanted to shout across the room to you – “ending racism will require ending business as usual.” Because it will. And you, last night, were all about business. The business of the City Council. The business of maintaining decorum. The business of hiring consultants to design a bigger, bolder monument, as if to compete with the structural racism perpetrated by the statue of Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee.

Structural racism: racism perpetrated by the very structure of the city. Listen. Listen to how upset people are. Listen to how much it matters. Every day Black people in Charlottesville live their lives in a city that is complicit with their dehumanization. You know it, and I know it, and it’s on us to do something to change it.

I am a White person. When I moved here, the pattern was clear: Other White people told me how much they loved Charlottesville and how much they wanted everyone else to love it, too. People of Color I talked to, Black friends and colleagues, told a different story.

That park matters. The psychological toxicity of racism – minority stress and trauma – impacts everything from academic engagement to physical health to simply feeling okay as a person.

That statue is dehumanizing. Just as slavery is dehumanizing. Just as a registry and a wall would be dehumanizing. (I could go on.)

When you are complicit in dehumanizing Black people, your own humanity is compromised. That’s why I hope you can’t sleep. I hope you are mourning the loss of your own humanity and struggling to get it back. You can get it back! But you’ve got to try really hard, in ways you’ve never tried before. And it’s got to mean an end to business as usual.

Black lives matter.

Remove the statue.

Or step down and have Wes Bellamy lead instead, if you’d rather grasp at rhetorical unity than take real risks in pursuit of justice.

Here to help if I can.
Mimi Arbeit

I sent this letter to the Charlottesville Mayor, Mike Signer, after attending the January 17th City Council meeting. From about 9-11:30pm, the meeting focused on The Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces. The room was filled with people asking for the removal of the Confederate Robert E. Lee statue and the renaming of Lee Park; the demands were denied.

Published by Mimi Arbeit

applied developmental scientist, antifascist community organizer, sexuality educator