By Courtney Cox | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the heart of St. Augustine lies, to some, an infectious symbol of a hateful, dark and dwelling past.
Centrally located in St. Augustine’s Plaza de la Constitucion are Confederate monuments commemorating the soldiers who fought for slavery. These monuments have caused a quake of anger ever since the events that took place in Charlottesville. Protests and meetings have brewed a boisterous rebuttal in residents of St. Augustine.
Hasani Malone, a junior at Flagler College as well as a member of the Black Lives Matter movement, has been standing up for herself, her family and the black community all her life, she said.
“My feelings have been hurt all my life because I’m black,” Malone said.
At the beginning of Malone’s college career she noticed the confederate monuments and took action. Even before Charlottesville, the monuments had always been there, she said.
“It’s a reminder that this isn’t a very welcoming community for black people,” Malone said.
The voices speaking out to remove the monuments from the plaza are acting on a small piece of a much larger issue in hopes of heading into the direction of change.
“It’s a minor issue but it’s still an issue, and it’s the start to other issues going on here,” Malone said.
When Malone publically speaks out against the monuments she wants to portray the unwelcoming feeling the black community gets in hopes that these issues won’t be ignored any longer, she said.
However Malone’s voice, as well as others speaking against and attending the rallies, have encountered a number of threats from those wishing to preserve the monuments.
A man abruptly approached Malone following her speech at one of the rallies, “You’re going to feel sorry for this. Watch your back,” Malone said he warned her.
On another occasion inside Target, a man mistook one of Malone’s friends for her and said, “You spoke out at the rally,” and even though her friend had expressed he was mistaken, he insisted it was her. “I know it was you,” he told Malone’s friend. Malone said she’s worried she could be putting others in danger too.
Donald Trump’s presidency has caused an uproar on the race front and Malone said that more voices from the black community are being heard more than they were before.
Since the election, almost all people of color in St. Augustine have experienced some sort of intimidation act, Malone said. The issues have always been there though; Trump is just vocal in his hate, she said.
Malone described how when Obama was president, the feeling was different.
“The difference between how I was feeling when Obama was president and how I’m feeling with Trump as a president is that more people understand why I’m angry now,” Malone said. “Before nobody understood why I was angry … but now people will listen to me.”
People are listening to the angry voices speaking out against racism, but not all of them hear the disparity within those voices. Thus, the show of racism goes on.
In high school, Malone was no stranger to the “N” word, she said. The pain that correlates with such a heinous word is haunting and has left Malone feeling exhausted.
“I get easily exhausted more because I feel like I’m always fighting something,” Malone said. “It’s not just a word to me, just like these aren’t just monuments to me because all of this has a meaning in it. These monuments can’t get up and hit me, but the racism that’s there is still violent.”
After Charlottesville, President Trump had placed the blame on “many sides” which left, coincidentally, “many sides” in an outrage. However, the people who aren’t Trump supporters “still have Trump tendencies or they think the same way he does, but don’t say the stuff out loud,” Malone said.
In Malone’s experience, protests for black people have been completely different than the protests for white people because black people are not allowed to protest, Malone said.
“Technically yeah, we do have these rights but in actuality this isn’t something I can do,” Malone said. “The Second Amendment right is not a thing for me because if I carry a gun, I’m going to get shot down.”
Malone and her family have had a long and trying history with the police, she said. The police have never been on her family’s side and that is why she stereotypes all the police, black and white. She has always stood tall and vocal about police brutality, Malone said.
The brutality continues with Confederate flag patrons, Malone said.
“It represents pride in your hateful character,” Malone said.
She feels very uncomfortable whenever she sees one flying and wishes she was the kind of person to rip it down, Malone said.
“I don’t care if it’s disrespectful, it’s cloth,” Malone said. “It’s replaceable. My life isn’t.”
The Confederate flag is a small issue in the grand scheme of things, but for Malone it’s the things that aren’t a big deal to other people that are a huge deal to her, she said.
She described how when people touch her hair, typically that’s not a big deal to people, but for Malone it is a big deal because she’s not a zoo animal and it makes her feel like one, she said.
It’s the little things that set her apart from people, she said. And with that, among her predominantly-white school, Flagler College, she’s never felt like just a student, she’s always been a black student, Malone said.
“When people go out of their way to make me feel like I’m different, like I’m other, that affects me because my whole life I’ve been other,” Malone said.
Even if the statues come down, it will cause more disruption, hatred and probably won’t be any better, Malone said. But the scare tactics won’t stop her from creating a better community for the people it has never been good for in St. Augustine, she said.
“Nothing is going to stop me,” she said.
If the community isn’t good for everyone else, she won’t feel like she did her part here, Malone said.
“My legacy is not going to matter,” Malone said, “if I’m not helping other people.”