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Letter: Agreeing on the dangers of racism and prejudice

Letter: Agreeing on the dangers of racism and prejudice

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Here we are, two friends from distant positions on the political spectrum, but with a care to agree to disagree, to remain friends and respect each other, and to make a broad anti-prejudice statement together in the midst of a request to the Rockbridge County School Board to prohibit Confederate symbols.

Mary believes that Confederate symbols are a way to maintain historic and familial pride. Chris believes that Confederate symbols are too linked to racist events in the past to represent anything else today.

Mary does not deny that history and the fact that Confederate symbols continue to be used by white supremacists. But she also believes they can still be used positively. She is proud of her southern identity and displays Confederate symbols to express that.

Chris applauds Mary’s pride and encourages others to share it. He does not believe that displaying Confederate symbols involves animosity toward black people. But he deeply wishes family pride could be expressed through symbols that are not also associated with slavery and Jim Crow.

Our respectful disagreement extends to other symbols too. Mary believes the slogan “Black Lives Matter” sets one race above another. Chris believes the slogan focuses on one subset of lives that has been historically overlooked.

But the danger of disagreeing about symbols is losing sight of the shared values they can sometimes obscure. We both believe that any rhetoric against one race, against one ethnicity, against one religion, or against any subset of people is wrong. We both believe that racism and prejudices are dangers to our shared nation that should unite us all against them.

People perceive symbols differently because of cultural and background experiences. We both strive to understand each other’s differences and take this step to continue to move forward in friendship. We write this as a joint statement of anti-prejudice, and ask that all of us sit for a moment, look into ourselves, and understand what divisions can do to us as friends, as families, and as a community.

Chris Gavaler and Mary Harvey-Halseth, Rockbridge County

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