A week after “White Power” and swastikas were spray painted at Riverside Park, a mostly white crowd gathered in the park Sunday to listen to black speakers discuss topics including Confederate statues, white supremacy and white privilege.
“Findlay is a predominantly white demographic, and I feel that we are very comfortable with that,” said Mallie Grim, who grew up in Findlay and was one of the organizers of the “Findlay Against White Supremacy” rally.
She said talking about the graffiti — and about race in general — is uncomfortable for Findlay, and “through that discomfort comes anger, white fragility, and probably the most impressive display of mental gymnastics I’ve ever seen.”
A “community conversation about race,” in which white people learn from “marginalized” people, is necessary, Grim said.
Marc Washington, executive director of the Black Heritage Library and Multicultural Center, offered ways to combat white supremacy — including recognizing that white supremacy is “literally a system” in which “people with white skin have advantages in society that other people do not.”
Washington posed questions for attendees to ask in several areas that could be impacted by white supremacy.
Regarding education, for example, “How is slavery being taught?” And, which non-white “explorers, scientists, politicians and artists” do children learn about?
Washington also addressed the idea that removing statues of Confederate figures like Robert E. Lee is erasing history.
“Construction of these monuments rarely has to do with the remembrance of historical figures, and more often coincided with the periods of racial conflict,” Washington said.
Jerome Gray, chairman of the Black Heritage Library board, also talked about the history of Confederate monuments, pushing back against what he called “a romanticized, supposedly noble and valiant lost cause” story that replaced the Confederate legacy of “treason in the name of slavery.”
The “war-torn, ravaged” South wasn’t building monuments after the Civil War, Gray said. And the Ku Klux Klan was “kept in check” until federal troops pulled out in 1877.
“Left to their own devices, southern states systematically removed African-Americans from civil life, took away their rights, segregated every possible public space, and found new ways to criminalize African-Americans in order to imprison and virtually re-enslave them,” Gray said.
This “new order” was enforced via brutality, such as lynchings, Gray said, “but also with visible and concrete reminders” — the statues.
Courier reporter Kathryne Rubright will have more on Monday.