Reader opposes state legislature bills
Our state legislature is outdoing itself with harmful legislation this legislative term. It seems that the wealthy industry leaders who operate our state government do not have any proposals that would help our struggling population economically weather or recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19.
The legislators themselves seem to prefer to stoke the flames of racial and gender resentment rather than acknowledge reality.
Living West Virginians are limited in legislation proposed this session from talking about their own realities and histories because the white male supermajority in the state legislature seems to think that honest discussion of historical facts and present realities negatively affects them and their control over us.
Sexuality, not homophobia or trans-antagonism, is, in one of these proposed bills (HB 2595), called “divisive.” Racial identity, not racism or xenophobia, is, in one of these proposed bills (HB 2595), called “divisive.” At the same time, legislators have taken the time to propose “protective” legislation to benefit — not the people of West Virginia — but stone and metal statues honoring prominent figures of the confederacy (HB 4384).
The legislation under discussion is particularly painful because it does not even recognize the historical fact of our state as a result of a piece of land that was once claimed by the Confederacy and left the Confederacy by the will of the people of this state.
North Central West Virginia, where I was born and where I have lived most of my life, is fond of memorializing Stonewall Jackson — naming government buildings, hospitals, parks, etc. after him. His statue is prominently displayed on the courthouse steps in Clarksburg.
If you suggest, as I did, and as the Black Heritage Festival leadership did, that the statue should be removed so that the history of the Confederacy is not more visible and accessible than the history of dissent that led to the existence of our state, you will be met with exclamations of “but he was born here!” It’s true that Stonewall Jackson was born in the region. However, it is not true that Stonewall Jackson was a West Virginian. When Stonewall Jackson was born in what is now Harrison County, West Virginia, that land was part of Virginia, and Virginia was a part of the Confederacy.
I need the legislature to answer this question for all West Virginians: Why should we memorialize Virginia’s history by protecting the statues of dead white Virginians? Why should we, at the same time, communicate that West Virginians currently living in this state are less important to us (by calling multiple of our diverse populations divisive) than distant historical figures who fought to maintain the Confederacy from which our state split to become itself?