I hope elected officials on Martha’s Vineyard were watching last week as more than half a dozen states took steps to remove monuments to the Confederacy from their landscape. And well they should, since Martha’s Vineyard is home to one of these statues as well.

I’m referring to the seven–foot tall Union soldier whose former home was at the base of Circuit avenue, but now stands opposite the Oak Bluffs ferry terminal, behind the town’s police headquarters, greeting thousands of tourists each year — many of them black — during the Island’s high season.

On its face the monument doesn’t seem particularly offensive. After all, it’s a soldier who fought “on the right side of history.” But the back story of the statue’s patron, and part of his motive in commissioning it, is troubling.

Records show Charles Strahan was a Confederate soldier, who served in a Virginia regiment, was shot by a Union bullet early on, and later fought at Gettysburg. He served proudly under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who defended the Confederacy which sought to preserve the institution that enslaved hundreds of thousands of people of African descent, who looked like me.

After the loss of more than 600,000 lives and the defeat of the South, Strahan made his way in 1884 to Martha’s Vineyard, where he remade himself as a newspaper publisher. He took over the Cottage City Star and renamed it the Martha’s Vineyard Herald.

Seven years into his stay, in 1891, he built this monument, paying tribute to Union soldiers on three of the four panels at its base. The troubling part begins with Strahan’s wish for the fourth blank panel: that Vineyard-based Union veterans would in turn pay tribute to their old foes, the Southern soldier. More egregious though is what happened in 1925, when these Vineyard veterans saw fit to honor Strahan’s wish, saluting Johnny Reb, just as he requested.

“The chasm is closed” the panel reads. “In memory of the restored Union, this tablet is dedicated by Union veterans of the Civil War and patriotic citizens of Martha’s Vineyard in honor of the Confederate soldiers.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, an August 2013 article in the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine notes that at the close of Strahan’s speech when this fourth panel was dedicated, “the band played Dixie and it was reported that a few rebel yells were heard among the general applause.”

As the great-great grandson of an enslaved African and a son of the South, nothing adds more insult to injury. I imagined how the Jewish community might have responded to a similar move in the wake of World War II. What if a military veteran of Nazi Germany resettled in New York city, home to the largest concentration of Jews in the U.S.? What if he had done well in business, and chose to build a statue, paying tribute to the Allied NATO Forces who defeated Hitler? And what if that same former Nazi successfully convinced those NATO soldiers in Manhattan to honor him and his comrades who fought in support of the Holocaust on his same statue?

The truth is I can’t imagine it. Not now. Not in a million years. No way. No how. And yet, here we are.

On its face, Martha’s Vineyard appears to be no different than much of America in the matter of race and racism. They would prefer not to talk about it, at least where it concerns them. And who can blame them?

But one can’t continue to fill ones coffers with the millions of dollars delivered by black folk summering here year after year, only to turn a blind eye to this offensive elephant in the room. One can’t continue to sell oneself as an Island of progressives, boast of being a playground for the black elite and shamelessly point to the Obamas, Spike Lee and Skip Gates as proof. One has to show some respect for these customers, these people and their American history.

If this matters to those who run this Island, then Martha’s Vineyard will do the right thing. They’ll walk their talk, be guided by their moral compass and take steps toward becoming who they profess to be.

It’s been often said, the difference between racism in the North versus the South is one of subtlety. Nothing epitomizes this more than the continued presence of this statue. At best, it serves as a thinly veiled reminder of our holocaust. At worst, it sends a damaging message to black children who play on your beaches that this Island doesn’t mind and they don’t matter.

Clennon L. King is a Boston-based filmmaker.