It's an ongoing battle across the country, right here in Central Texas, should Confederate statues and monuments be removed?
In Georgetown, a newly formed group is working toward a compromise.
For more than a year, groups have talked about the Confederate soldier statue that lives outside of the Williamson County Historic Courthouse on the Georgetown Square.
Some said it's offensive and needs to come down, while others said it honors their heritage.
"As a black citizen I feel disenfranchised, from being a truly appreciated and welcome citizen,” said Williamson County resident Clarissa Jackson.
"I feel it's part of my family's heritage,” said Williamson County resident Mike Gavit.
But now two faith leaders in Georgetown, Rabbi Jonathan Dade, and Rev. Kurt Hein, are coming together to try to unify and heal.
“It's really bringing people together. Right now, we're so polarized, we can't seem to talk about something,” said Dade. "We're trying to shift the goal to be something both people can unify around, so we're able to bring a little bit more peace.”
The two met in a pastor’s prayer group.
"We never really talked civil rights issues in our pastor circle,” said Dade.
"We're both doing it because of our love for this city,” said Hein.
Dade and Hein call their efforts the Georgetown Civil Rights Initiative and want to work with everyone to find common ground.
"You know what, maybe there's a way we can heal and unify our city, in these racial times, instead of allowing the controversy to continue," said Dade.
"The statue has many interpretations for different people, so the statue itself is tending to divide people. And besides, the statue itself really isn't the core issue," said Hein.
"Something of that is also recognizing that there is differing perspectives. There's some people that say there's no racism in a town such a Georgetown, but sometimes you have to admit, maybe there's no racism for you, but there's other people that have experienced racism,” said Dade.
The two come from different backgrounds.
“My family was called racial slurs here in this town,” said Dade.
"Really the statue never bothered me personally, you know I saw it as a historical artifact,” said Hein. “A way to remember the past, but after Charlottesville and I saw what happened there, I realized people have different perspectives on this statue."
They feel those different perspectives will help bring everyone together, for something new.
Instead of taking down the Confederate soldier statue, they want to put up a new statue, modeled after an emancipation statue in Barbados.
"We believe that celebrates deliverance from oppression for all kinds of people,” said Dade.
"I think we only honor history when we tell the full story, when we look at both our successes and our past failures,” said Hein.
"Instead of just honoring one side of history, if you honor the other side of history, that enables you to have a monument for some people to leverage, but then it allows you to have something else, that we're proposing is of equally high stature, that way it is truly an equal concept, and that should be able to unify our town," said Dade.
"When we sit down with even people we fiercely disagree with, and we give them the space to talk, and they give us the space to talk, that we can find those things that we both hold in common and are dear to us, and we can move forward in unity,” said Hein.
They also said they don’t want Georgetown’s economy to be affected by the current statue.
"Unfortunately, right now there's many cities, maybe hundreds of cities with Confederate monuments around the nation. As more and more cities start to remove their monuments, it's going to make us kind of come to the surface. We won't be able to hide in the crowd anymore, they're going to say you're one of only a few cities with this," said Dade. "We're also concerned that that level of controversy would disrupt the economy, I mean business would not want to go to a city that is known in such a negative light."
"We want it to be a welcoming place for everybody, and that requires unity. That requires mutual understanding, forgiveness, being willing to listen, to those people you don't agree with,” said Hein.
The two hope that people can unify on this issue, to go forward and solve other things.
"By no means is this the largest problem, but by being divided, we cannot then, therefore, go solve other problems,” said Dade.
They said they don't know how much money they need to raise for a statue, or even if the county would approve it.
But, they said it's about starting a conversation and gaining support.
"We believe communication is probably going to be the most effective vehicle for bringing down the divide that is currently in this town,” said Dade.
"The point we're at right now, is getting people together who aren't communicating, and getting them to talk,” said Hein.
If you want to join in, check out their website here.
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