When I was 18 years old, I spent a long, hot, quite often miserable summer in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. It was 1993, and I was going through the Army’s Basic Training. I remember my Drill Sergeants yelling at us, dumping our lockers, and waking us up at all hours of the night to pull fire guard.
I was there because I wanted to serve my country, as were most of my fellow soldiers. In 1998, I got out of the Army National Guard as a specialist. This year, I have returned to the Alabama Army National Guard as a chaplain. I returned because I have a love for soldiers, and I love the country that they serve.
I am also a pastor in Albertville. I have been for 12 years. I was raised in this city. I began my education at McCord Elementary school in Mrs. Reid’s class for first grade, and I graduated from Albertville High School in 1993. I have friends in this town and in my church that I have known since the cradle. The perspective I am going to give is not that of an outsider, but as a native son.
In our day of being offended at everything, declaring oneself to be offended usually elicits an eye roll from someone, but I ask you, out of a small courtesy, to listen to me when I say that the Confederate monument and Battle Flag of Confederate Virginia offends me as they stand displayed outside of our courthouse.
I want you to understand why it offends me as an American soldier, as a pastor, and as a citizen of this great city. Perhaps you will find my reasons lacking, but it might be that you will find them persuasive.
The Confederacy sought to overthrow the ideals that I treasure in the United States Constitution. The United States has never yet perfectly lived out its idealism that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” From slavery to Jim Crow laws to the poll tax, our country has failed black Americans time and time again. But the ideal is there, enshrined in our Constitution, that truth has pushed us from the day it was penned to make a better America, a better place in this world.
The Confederacy sought to overthrow these ideals and to stifle this truth. They picked up arms against the armies of the United States so they could keep black people in bondage.
As a Christian, I believe the scripture when it says, “God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female” (Genesis 1:27). The Confederacy sought to overthrow this truth. They wanted to forever keep that hideous compromise that said a black man was neither equal to a white man. The Confederacy opposed this foundational truth, and therefore I must oppose the Confederacy.
Finally, when you observe the history of the Battle Flag of Virginia, you will find that it is the darling of white supremacists. White supremacists flew that flag when Strom Thurmond ran for President as a Dixiecrat whose platform and foundation was segregation. This flag was flown by white supremacists who opposed Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama, when black people marched for equality. This flag was flown by the KKK as they marched right here in Albertville, Alabama as they walked down Main Street. Anywhere that white supremacy has been embraced, the Confederate Battle Flag of Virginia has been their rallying banner.
With such a history, can our fellow black citizens hope to find justice in those hallowed halls? Will it not conjure for them those painful memories of lynching, slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and outright tyranny?
This is why they protest, and who can blame them?
Please, lend your voice to those asking that the flag and monument be moved. Move them to the museum. Move them to private property. All we ask is that they no longer adorn the front lawn of our court house.
Chaplain (CPT) Brad Williams, USARNG
Pastor, New Covenant Baptist Church