About the removal of Confederate statues from public places
Several of my friends and relatives think it is just being reasonable to avoid confrontation over the Confederate statues, when plans to remove them stir such strong, angry reactions. I believe that there are facts being glossed over that make it clear that the removal of these statues is not about cleansing of valuable historical heritage as Condoleezza Rice insisted yesterday (August 16, 2017).
[Reference: http://conservativefighters.com/news/condoleezza-rice-important-message-liberals/ ]
1. 80% of the statues were erected in a 15 year period coinciding with the renewal of white supremacy, the spreading myth of “The Lost Cause” and the second arising of the Ku Klux Klan at the time of D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” in 1915. The concept of “The Lost Cause” was further celebrated in Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone with the Wind. Succinctly, the statues are an inextricable part of the renewal of political divisions on racial lines and the assertion of white power. The statues were erected in support of white supremacy.
2. The statues are being defended as a reference to the heritage of a large section of American people, and the idea that they reflect a noble legacy, even though the war was lost. By the 50th anniversary of the end of the US Civil War, history had been revised to portray the leaders of the Confederacy and its military as heroes, without regard for unbiased biographical studies or historical documents to the contrary. Concisely, the whole heritage and history as it is being remembered is fiction.
[See the article in The Atlantic about what the statues stand for]
3. Because the statues are part of the effort to re-describe who those people were and what they did, so as to efface their racism and horrendous treatment of slaves as animals, and to achieve a satisfactory emotional distance from that past, the statues do not withstand scrutiny as historic artifacts (that noble history never existed, it was a rebellion and war to defend the economic advantages of slavery) and they certainly do not represent the ideals of American democratic society. So the question is, “What use are the statues?” And the honest answer is increasingly, “They were a mistake.”
4. There are a substantial number of people who are convinced that the removal of the statues is being imposed by pressure to be “politically correct” whereas that undermines freedom to have differing opinions. In fact, the statues are being removed by popular consent by communities that understand the statues no longer tell the truth about who we are and who we are becoming as Americans. No outside groups have removed any statue.
[See the letter from Stonewall Jackson’s heirs in support of Richmond’s decision to remove their great-great grandfather’s statue on Monument Avenue]
5. Most importantly, the statues are an affront to descendants of those who were enslaved, victimized, abused and killed by the persons represented in the statues. More than merely bruising the feelings of descendants and perpetuating the lies being told about those who perpetrated these atrocities, the continued prominence of the statues in public spaces symbolizes a refusal to confront past and present racism and dehumanization of sections of the American population. Those statues are testimony to our reluctance to eradicate hatred and discrimination. Insofar as the removals are being opposed, the opposition is testimony to continued reluctance to be inclusive. The statues are supportive of ongoing white supremacy and fear of a future without it. The only truth that the statues represent is that racism once was the mindset of a large section of the American public, a mindset that lingers and tends to recycle into public discourse. But the statues are contradictory. They do not confess racism but deny it.
[See an exposition on the history of white supremacy in the 20th century and what it means today]
The statues should go.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.