August 18, 2017
To the Citizens of the Dallas Community:
There have been calls throughout the country, including Dallas, to remove monuments and other symbols of the Confederacy. And I wholeheartedly concur. But while those symbols certainly reflect a terrible time in this country’s history, they possess no talismanic properties. The removal of these monuments will not immediately cleanse this country of the horrors that were imposed upon African Americans through the institution of slavery. Nor will the unthoughtful and hasty removal instantly transform racists and bigots into people accepting and welcoming of others. Rather than focus on the narrow issue of removing symbols of the Confederacy (and it will be impossible to remove all such symbols), I propose that we come together as a people to discuss those things that divide us in an effort to change the hearts and minds of people that hate.
Many members of the African American community do not fear the Confederate symbols. They are just that, merely symbols. There are other pressing problems facing the African American community such as crime, jobs, homelessness and drugs. To focus solely on the Confederate symbols detracts from the other pressing issues facing our community.
There will be protests and counter-protests in Dallas this Saturday regarding the removal of Confederate monuments in Dallas. We cherish the rights of all people to gather peacefully to express their thoughts and concerns. However, such expressions should be done without violence. Dallas is still mourning the loss of the 5 police officers who were killed on July 7, 2016, protecting the rights of peaceful protesters. The city of Charlottesville is likewise mourning the death of a woman attending a protest seeking the removal of Confederate monuments. I implore all people attending the protest this Saturday, as well as any other protest throughout the country, to refrain from violence so there will not be a repeat of the violence seen in Dallas and Charlottesville.
We must acknowledge the sense of urgency and patience that our residents are experiencing. Our response to the removal of symbols of the Confederacy must be purposeful so that they have a strong and lasting impact. We recognize that we must protect all protesters from violence and intimidation but we must also ensure that all voices are heard. This is not a new issue but one that we have been struggling with for generations. We are a strong city composed of passionate civic leaders, activists and residents who are capable of having a dialogue without resorting to violence. Finally, the entire country has suffered from the legacy of slavery and oppression in this country, but none more than the African American community. Our ancestors were brutally enslaved and tortured. While we certainly welcome the efforts of all people to denounce racism and bigotry in all of its forms, it is the African American community that must take the lead in the healing process so that no one in this country is oppressed because of who they are.
Dwaine R. Caraway
Mayor Pro Tem
City of Dallas