I went to the community celebration and information session at Marshall High School where Fort Bend ISD officials discussed the details of how the school would host Willowridge High School while the home of the Eagles is undergoing mold remediation and renovation.
Because both schools are below half capacity they both fit together under one roof, albeit rather snugly. When parents and students came together Wednesday night, I witnessed not just the blending of two schools but the open embrace of people of many different races. Predominantly black, white and Hispanic, people of many colors and cultures came together in an open embrace of friendship and acceptance.
In light of the racial strife and tragedy recently in Charlottesville, Va., it was so refreshing and encouraging to see the unity and togetherness demonstrated at Marshall High. It showed what those of us from Fort Bend County have known for years – that we are all part of the same race; the human race. This county prides itself on being one of the most ethnically diverse in the country. That was proven Wednesday night.
There was no Alt-Left, Alt-Right, white supremacy, Black Lives Matter, anti-Confederate, pro-history rhetoric. There were smiles, hugs, gifts, acceptance and unity. Even though the two schools are district rivals, there was no Us vs. Them. It was just us. The two have (temporarily) become one.
Although no one mentioned the current state of national affairs, the contrast between Missouri City and Charlottesville was not lost on anyone that night. With teachers and administrators clad in T-shirts featuring the M atop the W High School logo and Together We Stand printed under it and the pep rally reception given by Marshall, it was clear that the response to adversity is unity, not division.
On Friday that was further demonstrated at the school when area religious leaders and elected officials came together to stand in unity for the two schools. Although my schedule prohibited me from attending that event, it still served as further evidence that we can do more together as a people when we cooperate than we can when we take offense and fight.
There is no doubt that racism is still a huge problem in this country. If it were not, we would not be having these issues or this discussion.
I think we owe it to ourselves, however, to reflect on how far we’ve come since the days of the Civil Rights Movement. Segregation is long over. Our schools, governments and other institutions are integrated – not perfectly, but much better than they’ve been at any time in the past. We have made tremendous progress and continue to do so.
The last thing we need to do is let the violence and rhetoric of a few undo the accomplishments of the many. Ironically, I think what has happened in Charlottesville has not served to divide us but to unite us. In a way we have spoken in one voice that we will not tolerate hate. That’s not what the neo-Nazi white supremacists wanted to accomplish.
The unfortunate backlash to all of this has been an assault on Confederate statues and monuments. This is a knee-jerk reaction and a horrible response. There appears to be a mindset out there that the Confederacy and the Civil War were only about slavery and that the only purpose of the statues and other monuments is to demean blacks.
I don’t see it that way, but I come from a time and place far removed from the Civil War. Whenever I see a monument to the Confederacy, I’m reminded of those who sacrificed everything in this nation’s bloodiest war. I see recognition of sacrifice, commitment, bravery and belief. I also see a vivid reminder that the result of the war was a win for freedom and the unity of this country.
Conversely, although I am white, I can understand how Confederate monuments might make black people feel. I might be just as outraged if Mexicans erected statues of Santa Anna after the Texas Revolution or if people of German descent put up monuments to Hitler after World War II.
When it comes to these monuments, we need to remember that defacing them or tearing them down is a crime and ought to be punished. We have a Constitutional right to free speech and to assemble peacefully. We do not have the right to commit crime. Vandalism is not a form of expression protected by the Constitution and it’s downright un-American.
Before anyone makes an attempt to tear down or remove Confederate monuments we should first understand their context and purpose. Any action should be taken or not taken as the result of a free and democratic process. It is foolish and dangerous to act while in the drunken stupor of runaway political correctness.
America has a very messy and divisive past on many fronts. We cannot sanitize our history or pretend it didn’t happen. We need to be reminded of who we are and where we came from if we are to move forward without repeating the mistakes of our forefathers. If we are to make progress as a people, we need to do it together. We need to focus on what we have in common and our shared values. We must also respect that there is no way to please everyone and there will always be disagreements. We must learn to disagree without being disagreeable.
I think that is what made the events at Marshall High School so beautiful. While much of the country is maligned on issues of race, we are finding strength in unity. It’s powerful and positive and it’s a message the rest of the world should see. Instead of the flashpoint of Charlottesville, we need more ripples of Missouri City and Fort Bend County. This is our example and this is who we are.
I think it’s very fitting that the two schools mascots are the bald eagle and the buffalo, which also happen to be our nation’s symbols. Together we stand!