Caleb Kershner

Catoctin Supervisor Caleb Kershner (R) speaking to staff during a Loudoun County budget work session in March.

This letter is to Supervisor Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin) regarding your answer to the Loudoun Times-Mirror on whether you believe the Confederate monument in front of the county courthouse in Leesburg is appropriate in 2020 America and if you support removing and/or relocating it. I want to say I appreciate your willingness to be honest, and the way you conveyed your message respectfully has allowed me to read it and re-read it to truly understand your point of view. Here is my response, and I kindly ask you afford me the same courtesy.

Throughout millennia, humans have erected monuments, written books, drawn pictures and sang songs to record historical events for posterity. At any point in time, those in power chose what and who is to be remembered and how they shall be remembered. In your response you wrote “The memorial reminds us of our Loudoun County History; It reminds us of death and pain that comes with conflict; it reminds us of the struggles of our past; It reminds us of the cost that often comes with allowing such evils as slavery to exist in society.” However, the plaque on this monument does not say that. It does not say, “This is to remember our painful history so we know never to repeat it.” Instead, what it says is, “In memory of the Confederate Soldiers of Loudoun County, VA. Erected May 28, 1908.” It is indeed a memorial to the Confederate soldiers who fought and died for the Confederacy and what it stood for. So I disagree with your assertion that “it is NOT a memorial to the beliefs of the confederacy.” In 1908, those in power in Virginia, white Virginians decided who shall be remembered from their painful history of Civil War. They decided how they shall be remembered; they erected a monument in front of the county courthouse – a place where both the powerful and powerless go to exercise their civil rights, a place that is a symbol of not only justice but also authority. Black Virginians saw this monument not only as a symbol of the power that has oppressed them for 400 years but also the representation of the “lowly” soldiers who were willing to die for what they believed was their right to continue to enslave them. However, it was 1908 and black Virginians did not have a voice.

It is now 2020, and the voices of all Americans must be heard. The call to examine whether monuments such as this one are appropriate now in this century, is the call to ask white America to acknowledge that when your ancestors made laws, instituted policies, erected monuments, they did it with utter disregard to African Americans on whose backs they built this country. Please understand that I’m grossly understating my point here, because there are plenty of laws and policies that have been instituted to keep African Americans oppressed. African Americans are now asking what their ancestors in 1908 couldn’t: “Why can’t you see that your lowly Confederate soldier fought to preserve his ability to enslave my ancestors? Why can’t you see that building a monument in his name and putting it in front of a courthouse is saying to me and my ancestors that the history you choose to remember is the one of the oppressors and not the oppressed?” Now, if you can see those points, how then can you not agree to right the wrong of 1908 and remove the monument? Nobody is going to erase the history of the Civil War, but for much of the 20th century, southern states chose to commemorate the Civil War through the lenses of the Confederacy. If we can at least acknowledge that as a country, we’d be taking one step in the right direction.

So I ask you and other Virginians who agree with you to consider this last point. Monuments are symbols and representations of what a community or a county or a state or a nation holds important. They don’t just represent historical events, they are a reflection of the powerful. I am a naturalized citizen, and I learned about American history, including the Civil War, in high school shortly after my family and I moved to Virginia from Africa. However, at the time my young mind didn’t understand how people still had Confederate flags flying on their front porch or how there are roads named after Confederate generals. I thought to myself, “Didn’t the Confederacy fight to keep slavery?” At the time, I didn’t understand how a nation that holds itself as the beacon of democracy and equality still chooses to commemorate the oppressors from its painful and racist past. Now I understand: It’s not because people haven’t been asking, it’s because those who can do something about it – those in power – chose not to listen. I ask you to listen. In these times, not listening will lead us to a slippery slope. If you listen, you’ll hear that it’s not just about monuments -- it’s about much more.

 

Zemma Chachu

Loudoun County

(16) comments

BobOhneiserEsq

Voltaire - You made very good points. My issue isn't really the statue(s) but the lack of leadership in the county which should be focused on solving problems instead of such virtue signaling exercises. Assessments are both wrong and unfair yet remain unfixed, traffic debacles like Route 15 north of Leesburg remain unfixed, LCPS still practices discriminatory and inefficient busing, Local pollution and garbage controls are not properly managed, VDOT still isn't directed to do its job in Loudoun by the BOS etc, etc, etc,. Both the school board and BOS seem distracted by political issues instead of what they were elected to get done in my opinion. :-)

Voltaire

Bob--I believe that you and I agree on a lot of the "challenges" that the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and the Loudoun County Government, including School Board/LCPS, have to work on. I agree about the lack of leadership in those institutions. The problem though, is that the BOS and the School Board are staffed with people who don't want to show leadership. That requires thought and initiative. One of the key tenets of being a leader is the ability to make decisions that may be unpopular. It is clear to me that politicians simply can't understand that . Instead, they go after the less taxing, easy actions like removal of statues and other "low hanging fruit". Furthermore, the process of electing people to office is so messy/nasty, it turns off those individuals who can do what you and I are talking about which is leading a governmental organization and making bold decisions and getting results. As for the Virginia Department of Transporation (VDOT), I don't think that the BOS can direct them to do anything as VDOT is a state agency and the BOS is county level. They request VDOT to do things and either go the Commissioner of VDOT or his superior, the Virginia Secretary for Transportation.

BobOhneiserEsq

What is so hard about muting the obvious statement being made by one statue by adding a second statue of a Union soldier so it is historically correct as both fought and died in Leesburg? Enough with this nonsense. For those who really care about doing the right thing instead of filling up the airwaves and digital news print with drama how about forcing the school board to stop the local segregation of the poor students around Plaza street who still get bused away from their local elementary school. Lets' show our empathy for real current issues and stop the current discrimination of children who deserve EQUALITY!

Voltaire

Bob--do you really think that the addition of another statue is going to remedy this problem? No, not when these protesters are tearing down statues of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Further, why should the Loudoun County taxpayers have to pay for a second statue? That idea is cost prohibitive. Why don't they remove the statue and place a historical marker there with a list of names, from both sides, who died and some historical context? You keep assuming that the county government and school system want to do actions that require leadership and actual effort. I think that your assumption is very much flawed.

Mizraim

Voltaire- What parts of the letter are subjective conjectures?

Voltaire

Mizraim--There are large portions of this “well thought out letter” that are conjecture. For example, the letter writer cites the inscription on the monument and then states “…It is indeed a memorial to the Confederate soldiers who fought and died for the Confederacy and what it stood for.” There is zero evidence to support the premise that that statue is a memorial to the Confederate States of America (CSA) or to the beliefs of the CSA. That is a subjective opinion of the letter writer. The inscription states that “In memory of the Confederate Soldiers of Loudoun County, VA erected May 28, 1908.” However, the point made by the Supervisor is correct in that the statue is not a “memorial to the beliefs of the CSA.” However, the writer believes that she knows more than the Supervisor as she belittles that point and then continues to pontificate at length at what she perceives were the motivations of the county leadership in the year 1908. Was she around in 1908? No, but she believes that she can speak for them. That is conjecture and borderline arrogance. She then goes on the trail of conjecture talking about how Black Americans felt at that time. How does she know this? She just emigrated over here from Africa not too recently so there is no way she can talk with any type of authority on what Black Americans felt at that time. She then proceeds to lecture the reader with the following: “The call to examine whether monuments such as this one are appropriate now in this century, is the call to ask white America to acknowledge that when your ancestors made laws, instituted policies, erected monuments, they did it with utter disregard to African Americans on whose backs they built this country.” Really? The letter writer is making a blanket characterization that every white American made laws, policies, and erected monuments with disregard to African Americans. Can she prove this? No. She also makes a blanket characterization that EVERY soldier in the Confederate Army fought for the Confederacy because they wanted to continue “to preserve their abilities to enslave my ancestors.” There is no way possible that she can provide any support to that statement but lack of evidence/support doesn’t seem to stop her from her holier than thou diatribe. She then makes a point of stating “much of the 20th century, southern states chose to commemorate the Civil War through the lenses of the Confederacy.” That is not correct at all. The fact is that the southern states did not “commemorate the Civil War through the lenses of the Confederacy”. Nobody commemorated the CSA, not even the southern states. The southern states did, as supported by the historical record, acknowledge their role in the Civil War and there is nothing wrong with that, contrary to the letter writer’s “conclusions”. She then incorrectly states that the Civil War was fought solely on the basis of slavery. The historical record states that there were multiple reasons (economic and political) that the Civil War occurred. Yes, slavery was one of them. However, it was NOT the only reason. The letter writer either does not want to acknowledge this or fails to grasp that point. What I find interesting is that she rails on about the CSA and its “evilness” yet doesn’t address the the historical fact that racism is still found within the African Continent and its history involving slavery including the fact that active slavery is currently being conducted within the African Continent. She makes a blanket generalization about “how people still had Confederate flags flying on their front porch”. That is wrong as not everyone in this county has a Confederate flag flying from their front porch. She then continues to act holier than thou and lecture the reader about “listening” as if she has the definitive answer to the problem. Please. That is pure conjecture.

tolerantleft

You really were concerned about Confederate names of streets? I highly doubt that....

However, welcome to America. I'm glad you escaped Africa where over 9 million are currently enslaved.

LetsBreal

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” ― George Orwell, 1984

RandomName2019

So, basically, what the South and the Lost Cause movement have been doing for the last 160 years? Good to know.

AFF

I agree Let’s Be Real- the myth of the lost cause and the revisionist take on the ‘Glory of the South’ does have an Orwellian air about it.

amerigirl

That is a 1984 conspiracy theory and isn't applicable

RoundHillGuy

And without fail the Woke mob has come for this supervisor who dare have a different opinion than the social justice warriors. No doubt they will demand a public apology.

RandomName2019

What mob? An articulate and well thought out letter to the article is signs of a woke mob?

Voltaire

RandomName2019--and where do you see a "well thought out letter"? There is a good portion of it that is subjective conjecture, to put it mildly.

amerigirl

Disagree. Know the history of the statue and the history of those who gifted it and it is well thought out. If you just take it literally you may think that.

amerigirl

Mob? what mob? Sounds like you need to be woke.

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