The overwhelmingly Republican Prince William County Board of Supervisor (note: this is an all-white board in a majority-minority county) last night was met with chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” – and for good reason, as nobody would even second a motion by Supervisor Frank Principi (D) on a resolution urging a change in the name of Jefferson Davis Highway. Below, see video from last night, as well as Ken Boddye’s thoughts – and a transcript of his remarks during “Citizen Time.” I strongly concur with what Ken Boddye had to say, and echo the shouts of “shame!” at the all-white, Republican-dominated Prince William County Board of Supervisors for their disgraceful display last night.
Tonight’s Board of County Supervisors Meeting was both disappointing and infuriating. I’m still struggling to find the words to accurately describe what I’m feeling right now – we have natural disasters ruining and ending lives, shooters going on massacres without answer from our leaders, and children that are gunned down by police officers.
In the middle of it all, our county government had a chance to show that they were worthy of their stations. Tonight, they had the opportunity to show themselves as larger and better than any one individual ideology or political leaning. They were presented with a chance to speak out against hatred, bigotry, white supremacy, and the toxic rhetoric of Chairman Stewart.
Only Supervisor Frank J. Principi among them rose to the occasion. For him and his courage I’m grateful, along with all of those who came out tonight to support his resolution.
More on this tomorrow, but for now I’ll leave everyone with my remarks from Citizen’s Time:
I’ve lived in the South for over 8 years now. Nearly one-third of my entire life and the grand majority of my adult life. Eight years ago, I moved to Florida and it wasn’t long after that when I first encountered overt relics to the Confederacy without any historical context.
I recall stopping at a gas station in St. Petersburg to ask for directions when a large pickup truck pulled in. Standing tall in the truck bed was a Confederate Flag, and although the driver did not see me initially, I immediately felt uncomfortable and unsafe. I immediately got back into my car and made sure the driver of the truck couldn’t see me.
Some may call my reaction premature and overly sensitive, but I tell you that story because that is exactly how many people of color feel who did not grow up with such blatant celebrations of the Confederacy in their daily lives. Even those who are not of slave descent – or those who are not even from communities of color – have told me that when they first moved here from somewhere else, they were shocked at having a highway named after Jefferson Davis, and that there are so many Confederate statues in our commonwealth.
At this point, many may have the knee-jerk reaction of “well, those folks aren’t from Virginia. They don’t understand our heritage.” Some of the folks I just referred to as being shocked come from other Southern states. That someone from North Carolina feels like Virginia has an exorbitant amount of celebrations of the Confederacy should give everyone present here pause.
It is high time that our community come together and has dialogue about this issue, and the first step in that dialogue should be a strong message from our county government that they condemn white supremacy in all its forms. This goes beyond the overt hatred exhibited by neo-nazis and Klansmen marching the streets of Charlottesville; this should extend to the more subtle, more passive forms of racism and white supremacy that permeate our everyday lives. The thought that folks are outraged when we simply talk of moving Confederate statues while remaining silent at the egregious omissions from history books of the accomplishments of people of color and women should give you pause.
James Armistead and Barbara Johns are just as much part of Virginia’s history as Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis, and yet they are rarely ever mentioned among the historical legends of our commonwealth, nor do they have nearly as many statues, roads, fire stations or schools named after them. That should also give you pause.
In my view, we should not be in the business of romanticizing people who were willing to give their lives – and the lives of others – for the right to keep other human beings as property. For the grand majority of our nation’s history, those most negatively impacted by this romanticizing have not had the political power or social influence to make their grievances known. Today, we are making them known, and we are asking you to listen and to act.
Please resolve to condemn white supremacy in all its forms. Please commit additional county resources to combating white supremacist groups. Please urge the Prince William Delegation to pass legislation to do the same, as well as a commemoration of the lives of Heather Heyer, Lt. Jay Cullen, and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates. Please commit resources educate our citizens and, most importantly, our young people to the evil of the message these hate groups espouse.