Born and raised in Yoakum, Texas, Kenneth Merian grew up with the stories that came out of his family’s Confederate past. Nearly all of his grandfathers in the Civil War era joined the Confederate military cause, and for a long time, Merian believed they fought to preserve states’ rights and the Southern way of life.

Only after he read the Declaration of Causes of Secession from the Texas Secession Convention of 1861 did Merian come to believe that the Civil War was about slavery. And after the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, he says it’s probably time for Confederate statues to go.

“All the people who were saying it was heritage not hate, these people were rather silent when groups like the Klan would carry the confederate flag. …If we allow them to stand side by side with us in defending these monuments, this isn’t the type of people we want it to be associated with,” Merian says.

He says empathy has helped him come to terms with why the statues are a source of trauma for black Americans.

“How does this look to somebody else? Somebody who’s the descendent of slaves: Are they gonna look at this statue and feel the same things I do? Do I need this statue to feel those things? And, I don’t,” Merian says.

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