The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and Freedom Riders National Monument in Alabama and the Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina were designated as national monuments in January. All three played an important role in American history and civil rights history. National monuments are designated to protect federal land for every American to enjoy. They also honor our national mosaic and proud heritage. National monuments such as these are part of our American heritage.
I was therefore alarmed when President Donald Trump issued an executive order to review national monuments.
This is how injustice starts — incrementally. First review, then revoke. First a few, and then many. In the African-American community, we know the devastating effects incremental injustice can have. Other marginalized and underrepresented communities — Native American, Jewish, Hispanic — also know that small acts of injustice often escalate.
The civil rights monuments and others designated in recent years tell the stories of our diversity as a nation. They proclaim the need for justice and equality. They honor the heritage of peoples who have not had the luxury to etch their stories in the history books. To even suggest that these lands are not important to all Americans is an attack on our collective cultural fabric.
We are called to be in relationship with God and with each other. To care for one another and strive for justice. Public lands help preserve creation and provide us places we can pray and commune with our creator. They help us connect to our collective stories, increase our capacity for diversity and lift up stories of our neighbors, those we are called to care for.
Since 1906, presidents from both parties have designated national monuments under the Antiquities Act so future generations can experience our nation’s open spaces, historic sites and cultural treasures. I urge the president to reverse course and instead focus on designating additional places of cultural significance in order to stop the divisions and strive toward unity.
I also urge Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott to work to protect the Antiquities Act and any national monument from attack. Only in preserving our national cultural heritage and our collective stories can we learn who we are and who we can become as a people and a nation.
Rev. Doris Hicks
Cleave’s Memorial C.M.E. Church