The Conservative Wait Game

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the state of Virginia abolished the observance of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (Lee-Jackson Day), which was the same day as MLK Day in January annually. That was done intentionally to, of course, detract from the celebration of Dr. King’s life and work as a civil rights activist—and a true reflection of the gospel of Jesus Christ, unlike the many white evangelicals who don’t align their views with the politically and economically oppressed, but I digress.

Abolishing the day happened because there was a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature. Now, Virginia has a Republican governor, and if the legislature flips in 2024, the observance could be reinstated. There’s no guarantee of that, but a precedent was recently set.

In May, the Shenandoah County school board voted 5-1 to rename Mountain View High School as Stonewall Jackson High School and Honey Run Elementary as Ashby-Lee Elementary, their original names. It was a reversal of the 2020 decision by the school board to change the names. This happened because the school board was conservative after the 2023 election results.

Despite pleas to not revert the school names to their confederate names at the school board meeting, the school board made their choice. According to CBS News, school board member Gloria Carlineo, said during the six-hour meeting that opponents of the Confederate names should “stop bringing racism and prejudice into everything” because it “detracts from true cases of racism.”

Of course, this is unfortunate. The only reason why memorials to confederates even exist is to scare Black people and isolate them from political engagement. There’s even a correlation between Confederate monuments and lynchings. Southern schools adorned with names of Confederate generals and leaders continuing that tradition. That’s understood. But there’s something else we must understand about what happened… protests movements cannot stop breathing.

These name changes and revoking of laws that prevented their changing happened because of Black Lives Matter protests around the country. It happened as more and more scholar-activists challenged and countered mainstream narratives about American History, enslavement, Jim Crow segregation, and capitalism. It happened because the people witnessed the murder of George Floyd on their television sets.

There was little the opponents of justice could say without looking as unhinged as they sounded. But they knew what they could do… wait. They waited out the period of protest and anger. They waited out the change in atmosphere. When protests and demands for change died down, they moved to restore the status quo.

This is what happened in Shenandoah County.

Conservative whites waited out the uproar, elected their people on the school board, and returned their schools to pre-pandemic status, in name only. That’s the lesson for freedom fighters to be reminded of: those who uphold whiteness and white supremacy’s strategy is to wait you out… wait out your outrage, your discontent, your protest, and your activism.

They’ll wait out your think pieces, and your public commentary on MSNBC, CNN, and NPR. They’ll wait out your recently published books. They’ll wait out your university panels and your TED talks. They’ll wait them out because they know that the fight for justice is exhausting. After all, the roots of whiteness, white supremacy, and racial capitalism run deep into the indigenous earth. They’ve waited out Roe v. Wade. They’ve waited out the Voting Rights Act. They’ve waited out Black Lives Matter. They’ll continue to wait. Which is why we cannot stop.

We can’t stop protesting, marching, voting, disrupting, embarrassing, and making folks uncomfortable. We must be intense, uncompromising, confrontational, frustrating, and relentless in our advocacy and activism. Because conservatives are that way in their waiting. To win the fight for justice, we must fight long enough for our opponents to die on the battlefield. To the freedom fighters in Virginia, be angry, organize, and fight back.

But learn from Conservatives to understand how to fight back effectively. It’s a lesson we all must learn and remember, to prevent the waiting of racists to work. Recognize that waiting is a long-game tactic. Recognize that capitalism is a tool to minimize how long waiting is needed. Recognize that we must never wait for injustice to arise to fight against it because injustice is all around us.

Recognize, while white people can afford to wait, in the words of Dr. King, why we can’t wait.


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