The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia are a stark reminder of the power of sites of memory to either deepen division or inspire broad commitment to social justice.
We at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience condemn the hate-filled demonstrations by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other racist groups. There is no place in society for this detestable behavior and we stand shoulder to shoulder with its victims.
As we deplore the violence, we are inspired by the increasing ranks of counter-protestors from across the political spectrum who are publicly and passionately rejecting extremists’ dark vision in favor of dignity, truth and justice for all. At this critical juncture, we must harness this positive energy and encourage communities to ask “what next”?
Sites of Conscience know better than most how effective history can be in fostering contemporary cultures that embrace human rights and civic engagement. While confederate monuments across the US are serving no such role in their current locations, we have no doubt about their profound educational potential in the appropriate setting. Only when these structures are correctly contextualized in museums and other Sites of Conscience as the products of a culture of systemic repression that misrepresents history in order to propel one group forward at the expense of another, can we truly move toward peace and reconciliation as a country.
This is, of course, what Sites of Conscience do best. With your support we at ICSC will continue to move this work forward across the globe. In the upcoming weeks, please return often to our website and follow us on social media as we continue to offer lessons learned and best practices on interpreting contentious sites of memory.
Executive Director, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience