Even amidst the devastating fury of storms large and larger, the summertime tempest over monuments continues. And while Waco lacks any public monument celebrating Civil War generals, clashes ensue over monuments in Texas and beyond, including Dallas and Austin.
Monuments honoring those supporting the Confederacy should be moved to a museum or gated park for their historical significance. Any such museum or park in Waco should also include a talented local artist’s sculpture or mural depicting the “Waco Horror” to represent our disgust regarding that horrendous event — and to remind us how much we’ve changed from a century ago.
Inside we could celebrate African Americans who’ve played significant roles in our history. Curators should not exclude relatively obscure people — local role models who rose above circumstances against the odds to overcome racism through courage, persistence or a certain gift or talent. Include war hero Doris Miller, of course. But also consider Wilbert Austin, a civil rights icon and city leader who died in June. I didn’t know Mr. Austin, but everything I’ve read and heard (including a WCCC-TV report) indicates he was a humble man of God and an exemplary citizen-servant.
And, yes, charge admission — and donate a big portion of the proceeds to faith-based nonprofits with track records for innovative strategies in elevating poor black families with “hand-ups” (not handouts) that genuinely build individuals’ competencies and self-esteem. Such organizations should combat factors related to homelessness, alcoholism, illegal drug trafficking and consumption, gang activity, violence and criminal behavior, low expectations for poor students’ academic performance, absent fathers and poor parenting habits in impoverished families, generational public assistance dependency and sexual promiscuity.
These should partner with inner-city churches that decry self-disparaging dress styles such as low-hanging (sagging) pants and music preferences for loud, X-rated rap songs that violate sensibilities of folks such as parents of young children. These nonprofits will strategize with educators in low-performing schools to remedy the academic achievement gap and encourage increased parental volunteerism and engagement in their kids’ educational experiences. For ineffective inner-city churches — those that don’t strive to develop the “content of one’s character” and instill the Ten Commandments, personal responsibility and accountability, sexual abstinence, pro-life ethics, a healthy work ethic, Christian tenets regarding penitence, forgiveness and redemption, the importance of respecting parents, elders, police officers, teachers, pastors and school bus drivers — faith-based organizations must provide biblically based Sunday school curriculum.
Finally, upon the bases of any removed monuments, install permanent plaques: “This Civil War monument was removed so as not to offend the multitude of African Americans who have made positive contributions to our country, including sacrificing their lives while fighting for equal rights and defending the United States and our allies during wars.”