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Karen Finney Headshot

Virginia Shame

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Gov. Bob McDonnell's decision is shameful. If you're going to declare April as "Confederate History Month" to commemorate, "... the Commonwealth's shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present;" then have the courage and character to embrace the full truth, not hide from or censor it. This is not about being "PC."

What lesson are we teaching children when we tell them that it's OK to pick and choose the facts they want to believe, and ignore the ones that might be ugly, painful or we might even disagree with?

Reduce...

The shame is in the proclamation's failure to acknowledge the full range of the truth about the Civil War and Virginia's role in it. What about the sacrifices of whites who were part of the underground railroad and helped slaves escape to the North, or those who did not support the Confederacy, or the African slaves who actually fought on the side of the Confederacy? If we are going to celebrate and honor sacrifice, let us also celebrate the progress we have made since the Civil War, which should be a source of pride for every American, just as we must acknowledge the work that remains to be done.

For me this is very personal. My father, who is African American, is from Virginia. The Finney name comes from the man who once owned my family as slaves. My mother, Mildred Lee, is the great, great, great niece of Robert E. Lee, or "the General," as he is referred to by my family. I am therefore the great, great, great, great niece of General Lee. That is my American story, a mixed race heritage that I am proud of, just as Virginia, the South and our country has a mixed history.

Rather than fall prey to the mindless politics of "either, or", we must stop being afraid of the truth and acknowledge all of it. Denying one part is like denying a part of ourselves and it does a disservice to our country's rich history and to the people who have worked hard to help make America a great country.

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