EL DORADO, Ark. (7/9/20) — All week we’ve been hearing about what that monument means to residents of Union County.
It’s particularly personal for Charles McClelland, 61, who currently resides in El Dorado but grew up in the streets of Junction City during the segregation era.
Racial and societal tension is something he knows all too well. As a 10-year-old boy, he vividly remembers a time the Ku Klux Klax burned down a cross that was in his family’s yard.
“I was shocked. I was scared and that following year was in 69′ is when we integrated so you can only imagine what we went through,” McClelland said. “There were lots of fights but it took some years for us to come together.”
McClleland has many stories that he could tell but the one he’s living in right now is too much like he’s seen before.
“All the things that’s happened in the 1900’s and 1800’s shouldn’t be happening right now,” he said.
The Confederate statue is being debated by Union County residents. Its fate of whether or not it will stay on the courthouse lawn or be relocated will soon fall into the hands of quorum court members.
The confederate symbol means many things to many people but for McClelland it mirrors what he and his ancestors went through years ago.
“The Civil War started for one reason and for one reason only and that was to keep slaves, the north against the south,” he said.
As a man that has faced racism and oppression, keeping the statue on the courthouse lawn is offensive though he joins many who agree it should at least be preserved because it is history whether everyone likes it or not.
“We have all of these black historical museums that you can walk in and see all history,” he said. “We understand that statue is history put it in a museum let people go and view it to understand what took place back in those days.”
If the statue stays goes he doesn’t know if it’ll change what’s rooted in people’s hearts.
“You can take all of the monuments down. You can take all of the statues down around the United States will that change how a person feels no way,” McClelland said.
Despite his lived experiences, he has chosen to act in love.
“The black culture is one of the most forgiving cultures that there is,” he said. “People may say that that’s wrong but we are. We went through slavery. We went through a lot of things and how our ancestors got through that is through prayer and supplication.”
McClelland would like to see everyone of different backgrounds come together for a forum where individuals discuss their own lived experiences while trying to understand other’s perspective as well.
“We have to learn how to be educated on certain things,” he said. “I think that comes to a point where we can sit down at a table and you can learn me and I can learn you. You can learn my style and I can learn your style.”
Though he believes true change also begins with leadership where the lead person doesn’t show any favoritism towards a certain group of people but is a man or woman for all people.