What to Make of Troubling Confederate Statues

By Patrick Barron, Opinion Writer                       

Recently, certain statues have been the source of contentious debate surrounding their removal. For some, those statues do not need a public display as they are highly offensive and for others, the statues are cultural and needs to remain. However, the Confederate statues that largely haunt the South needs to be removed since there are no plausible defense for them.

The horrendous events in Charlottesville, Virginia in which a suspected Nazi sympathizer killed a person, reminds us that we have a long way to go with resolving several troublesome societal issues. Almost immediately, calls poured in demanding the removal of troubling Confederate statues and the nation debated having them publicly displayed.

Moreover, responses from both backers and denouncers of the controversial statues engulfed the media in the ensuing weeks and among the defenders clamoring for the Confederate statues to remain was President Trump.

Trump said, “Does anybody want George Washington’s statue [taken down]? No. Is that sad, is that sad? To Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt. I see they want to take Teddy Roosevelt’s down too. They’re trying to figure out why, they don’t know. They’re trying to take away our culture, they’re trying to take away our history…”

His words succulently recapped the position of the supporters wanting the statues to hang around. Needless to say, countless people, including myself vehemently disagreed with his claims since it is irresponsible to make those assertions without proper historical context.

Although, there is much to converse about his tricky logic, the words “our culture” sent jolts through my mind. Is it a culture that supports the Confederacy, a state who tried in vain to defeat the Union?

In addition, the history behind numerous statues is arduous for some to accept. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that promotes tolerance revealed the truth behind many Confederate statues. They said, “There were two major periods in which the dedication of Confederate monuments and other symbols spiked — the first two decades of the 20th century and during the civil rights movement.” Dutifully noted the first period occurred during the South’s implementation of the infamous Jim Crow laws, which illegally restricted the rights of African-Americans. Under those circumstances, it is no mere coincidence and I challenge anyone to pronounce otherwise.

Furthermore, it is deeply alarming to me that some would want to reduce the terrifying system of slavery and the disenfranchisement of African-Americans into an “our culture” issue. Case in point, the argument President Trump plainly stated, is hugely misleading. Attempts to encapsulate the argument into a defense of culture is not only ignorant of history but also profoundly problematic.

Slavery is immoral and there is no debate. Largely encompassing the culture of the Confederacy was the maintenance of a lifestyle, which included the enslavement of African-Americans as people’s property. Although I recognize the importance of the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech, believe me when I say, that is no culture I accept.

Now, there are several feasible solutions for the troubling statues and we could remove them knowing the intent behind their construction. I imagine the descendants of former slaves do not want to see and understandingly so a statue honoring people who fought (and lost) to maintain their ancestors as property. Alternatively, we could relocate the statues to places such as museums for this solution appeases those who want to view them, regardless of its surrounding controversy, and the museums create a teachable moment. Then again, monuments of free slaves could replace the removed statues. We need a reminder of the dark chapter in the American history to those who are unaware of the nation’s original sin – slavery.

Staunch opponents of the Confederate statues removal ought to reconsider their position. Clearly, we should know right from wrong, so let us right this wrong, and remove those haunting statues today.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 12th print edition.

Contact Patrick at

patrick.barron@student.shu.edu

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