Statues of Limitation: Why Confederate Statues NEED To Be Taken Down
As a Black man living in America, you would have thought the issue of Confederate flags and monuments on public land would have evoked a more impassioned response from me, especially after the events in Charlottesville. However, with the exception of a general sense of anger about the death of Heather Heyer and disgust over the idea that Nazi's and White supremacists would feel so emboldened as to have a large rally to voice their views, I was largely luke warm on the issue.
In Virginia, seeing Confederate monuments and flags was just something you saw on a regular basis. Of course, in school you were taught the Confederacy was wrong in the ideas they were protecting in the civil war and it was a good thing that they lost. But you also learned that generals like Robert E. Lee and Jeb Stuart were not altogether bad guys and were, in fact, talented military men of their time. In fact, General Lee wasn’t in favor of slavery but felt compelled to fight for the south in spite of this. It was for this reason that while I wasn’t in favor of keeping these statues up, I was somewhat in different on if they actually came down.
This was until I found out a fact that completely changed my mind.
A popular argument in favor of keeping Confederate monuments up is that they are a tribute to the history and pride of southern people. While this on its own doesn’t make sense as tributes to anything Confederate are inherently anti-American, the idea is primarily undercut by the timing from which these monuments were erected.
It is important to note that during all of the reconstruction period, there were very few monuments that were built at the time. It wasn’t until laws like Jim Crow were being enacted in the early 20th century, and being challenged in the 60’s that tributes to Confederate icons started to be seen on public land. From this, we can gather one of two things.
1.) After decades of contemplation about the contributions of the Confederacy, lawmakers decided to erect monuments honoring those ‘contributions’ or 2.) the statues were put up as a symbolic F**k you to black people as their rights were legally disenfranchised economically, politically, and socially. Sure, option one is possible and preferable to the latter, but knowing how nasty this country’s history truly is, I’m going to take option B.
While it is true that many people may not see these symbols as representations of hate and bigotry that they are infamous for, the truth is that they are. Not only for what they meant during the Civil War, but primarily for what they were used for nearly a century after the last bullet was shot.
A lot of people, when the topic of race is brought up, often believe that talking about race is like ripping off a scab that keeps the country from healing. But these monuments and what they represent are part of the infection that has us sick in the first place. While racism itself may never fully die, as a country, we should do our best to remove statues that openly and spitefully tribute it.