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Pro: Reminders of Racism

Following the recent controversy over the removal of confederate monuments around the country, reporter David Higuchi argues for why these monuments have got to go.

October 6, 2017

It is important for all Americans to learn the true unfiltered past of our country; however, there is a difference between learning our history, and celebrating our history. America has had a long and troubled history in dealing with race. Confederate monuments do not portray an accurate history and were put up to perpetuate a desire to continue the “lost cause” of the Confederacy.

Should Americans, especially African Americans, be forced to pay taxes for the maintenance of statutes on public grounds that are symbols of white privilege and a desire to return to the ways of the past? Should Kayla Wilson, an African American student who attended Robert E. Lee High School in San Antonio be forced to everyday remember our country’s dark history, going to a school which honors a man who fought a war against his own country to continue to enslave people such as her?

Imagine placing swastikas and statues of Hitler across Germany, forcing Jews to live under symbols that represent a hatred toward them. Instead, after the fall of Nazi Germany, concentration camps were preserved and anti-Semitic objects were put into museums, made into objects to be studied and taught, not celebrated. In doing so, they ensure that the unimaginable history of the Holocaust is never lost, but at the same time, never looked fondly back on. Just because something is part of history does not mean it deserves to be respected.

It is a common argument for supports of Confederate monuments, to try to declare monuments part of our history, saying that they remind us of where we came from. However, the idea that the statues, such as the one previously located in Forest Park, are part of our history is wrong.

In fact, almost none of these monuments were placed after the Civil War. These monuments were part of a revisionist campaign to paint the southern cause in the Civil War as justified and ongoing.

According to a report on Confederate monuments by the Southern Poverty Law Center, of the 700+ Confederate monuments in public spaces across the country, there were two distinct periods which saw significant spikes in the creation of monuments. The first began around 1900 as Southern states were enacting Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise African Americans and re-segregate society after several decades of integration that followed Reconstruction. It lasted well into the 1920s, a period that also saw a strong revival of the Ku Klux Klan.

The second period began in the mid-1950s and continued until the late 1960s, the period encompassing the modern civil rights movement. These statues came as a response to reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, explicit symbols of white supremacy. This is why Confederate monuments appeared across the entire country, even in parts thousands of miles away from the Confederacy–intending to spread a false narrative of southern pride.

Others argue that these monuments create a slippery slope which would lead to the eventual removal of all of America’s Founding Fathers who owned slaves. There is a difference, however, between Thomas Jefferson, whose practice of slavery comes as a sad but important reminder of the ways of the past, a small side note that comes along his long list of accomplishments, and Confederate generals whose statues today stand for nothing more than the lost cause of the Confederacy. What are Robert E. Lee’s accomplishments besides leading the Confederate army? His name represents the Confederacy and in turn, the oppression of African Americans. Now Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, our third President, has a lot to be remembered for besides being a slave owner.

It is also important to remember there is a difference between removing the statues and destroying them. Confederate monuments can find an appropriate home in museums and cemeteries. I understand the importance of remembering those who died fighting for both sides of the war. Nevertheless, memorials to the fallen of the civil war should not have to be wrapped up in the idolatry of the Confederacy. The reminder can still be there, but they should be displayed in an appropriate and educational manner.

America has had a dark past. One hundred and sixty years of slavery, followed by 100 years of state-sponsored discrimination. Our country should never forget this, but we should never celebrate it.

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