In all of the grandstanding and political jockeying over events in Charlottesville, local activist and philanthropist Ray Rickman stands out for his notably mature and reasoned position. To Steph Machado of WPRI:
“I suggested to him that he give Robert E. Lee, the statue, to the people organizing the rally,” Rickman said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “That, or put it in a museum where people can see it.”
Many of us on the right are constitutionally wary of any intention to scrub a country of its past, as by destroying such statues, but Rickman is right that moving them can transform them from being “honorific.” (That makes the museum option much preferable to the “give it to them” option.) Discussing the reason there are such statues in places of honor can create a rich discussion that would include not only the horrors of slavery and the Civil War, but also the intention of reconciliation that followed.
Considering the needs of the community, Rickman emphasized numerous traditionally black organizations that are struggling financially. Helping fund the NAACP, the John Hope Settlement House and a fund at the Rhode Island Foundation that grants small amounts to Latino organizations would go a long way toward helping move the community forward, he said[, in contrast to candlelight vigils].
Another Rickman idea, instead of a vigil: “I’d rather have a potluck dinner where everybody donates $5 to help bury the woman who was killed in Charlottesville.”
One could debate the specific causes for which Rickman advocates, but his impulse is exactly right. Rather than indulge in ideologically pleasant symbolism that can actually discourage action and further divisions, resolve to do something good for actual people in need.
Over the weekend, a phrase that popped up multiple times among those who were criticizing President Trump’s initial remarks on the events was “this isn’t hard.” Indeed it isn’t. The question, though, is what we want to accomplish.