Following in the footsteps of Baltimore, many other cities across the United States have taken preliminary steps to remove their own Confederate monuments. This includes statues and plaques and the like, as well as schools, highways, and other facilities named for Confederate soldiers, even holidays. All told, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified about 1,503 items as of 2016. Moreover, the vast majority of statues and physical markers are located in what can be considered southern states; of the 718 monuments and statues, about 300 are located in Georgia, Virginia, or North Carolina.
As you already know, Charlottesville’s city council voted to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the newly-minted Emancipation Park. It was this decision that led to the violence that occurred over the weekend. As of right now, the statue’s removal is on hold as the city tries to figure out how to move forward after the protests and tragedy of the weekend. Gainesville, Florida has already moved one statue, and is in the process of raising funds to remove a second. One North Carolina statue was knocked over by protesters in response to what happened in Charlottesville.
This is actually a big deal. A historic event. Keep in mind these monuments have been around since the 1800s. So they are over 100 years old. The removal of the monuments to the Confederacy has opened up a nation wide debate on the topic. A debate that everyone from Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of State to Robert E. Lee Jr, V, descendant of the Confederate General have participated. Interestingly enough, Rice thinks the monuments should stay where they are and Robert E. Lee's descendant thinks they should be put in a history museum depicting the horror of the times.
You'd think it would be the opposite, it's not.
Asked about the value of preserving statues that honor slaveowners in a May interview on Fox News, Condoleezza Rice argued against what she called the "sanitizing" of history. "I am a firm believer in 'keep your history before you' and so I don't actually want to rename things that were named for slave owners," she said. "I want us to have to look at those names and recognize what they did and to be able to tell our kids what they did, and for them to have a sense of their own history."
"When you start wiping out your history, sanitizing your history to make you feel better, it's a bad thing," the former secretary of state added.
Rice's defense in favor of preservation is rooted in an argument that is the basic opposite of the reason white nationalists are rallying for Lee. They believe it to be a persistent reminder of a positive history. Rice, on the other hand, believes preserving monuments to the darker moments of our past ensures future generations are acquainted with history and charge forward rather than backward, away from the mistakes of their ancestors, rather than into their fading bronze arms.
To be clear, Rice has not yet voiced her opinion on this particular statue. But hers is an interesting perspective to consider at a time when a small but vocal group of racist bigots is drawing attention to one of the darkest times in our nation's history.
I am curious to see what she'd have said after the events in Charlottsville.
Lee, a great-great-grandson of the Confederate hero, and his sister, Tracy Lee Crittenberger, issued a written statement on Tuesday condemning the "hateful words and violent actions of white supremacists, the KKK or neo-Nazis."
Then, Lee spoke with Newsweek by phone.
"We don't believe in that whatsoever," Lee says. He is quick to defend his ancestor's name: "Our belief is that General Lee would not tolerate that sort of behavior either. His first thing to do after the Civil War was to bring the Union back together, so we could become a more unified country."
The general was a slave owner who led the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War and who remains a folk hero throughout much of the South.
"We don't want people to think that they can hide behind Robert E. Lee's name and his life for these senseless acts of violence that occurred on Saturday," Lee says.
The Lee heir says it would make sense to remove the embattled statue from public display and put it in a museum—a view shared by the great-great-grandson of Jefferson Davis.
"I think that is absolutely an option, to move it to a museum and put it in the proper historical context," Lee says. "Times were very different then. We look at the institution of slavery, and it's absolutely horrendous. Back then, times were just extremely different. We understand that it's complicated in 2017, when you look back at that period of time... If you want to put statues of General Lee or other Confederate people in museums, that makes good sense."
Then there's this statement from the Mayor of New Orleans...
But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.
America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.
So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.
And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.
So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.
There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.
As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”
So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other.
So, let’s start with the facts.
The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.
He's not wrong. You should really read the whole thing. After listening to the Mayor's speech, I re-affirmed my view that yes, those frigging monuments need to come down. They should have been torn down in the 1960s. No, wait. They should never have been erected in the first place. Apparently there's a memorial to a Nazi sympathizer and collaborator in NYC, why it's there, I've no clue. Particularly in NYC of all places. Although changing place and street names may be a bit more problematic from a logistical perspective. (Yes, I know, I'm possibly the only person on the planet that obsesses over logistical matters... But, say you are looking for a post office located on Robert E. Lee Avenue and suddenly it has become Forest Hill Avenue. You're GPS can't find it and neither can you. Granted, if I were African-American I would not want to be living on Robert E Lee Avenue or passing down it every day to work. So, yes it should be changed. It's just a bit problematic. I bring this up because Governor Cumo wants to change the place and street names in New York. Now, why New York of all places had places and streets named after Confederate Generals is beyond me.
2. North Carolina Protest Arrest
In the days since Charlottesville, cities across the country have taken steps to remove Confederate monuments. Baltimore removed all of theirs in the middle of the night earlier this week. And if you haven’t yet watched the video of protesters in Durham, North Carolina, who refused to wait on their city and toppled a Confederate statue themselves, I recommend doing so. It’s highly catharticOne woman, Takiyah Thompson (you can see her coming out from behind the statue in the GIF), was arrested for her part in the protest. She’s currently out on bail, but this morning, a group of about 200 people gathered outside the Durham courthouse to oppose her arrest. And many of them (about 50 by some accounts) also went full Spartacus and lined up to turn themselves in to authorities.
3. How America Spreads the Disease that is Racism by not Confronting Racist Family Members and Friends
There's a nifty chart, see if you can identify where you fall on it.
Racism Scale Chart.
I can't reproduce the chart, sorry, I tried. You'll have to follow the above link.
If you fall below “awareness”, then this is a red flag that racism is a problem for you. If it is not a problem for you, but find that it is a problem for your family members and/or friends, then it’s time to address it or it will continue to spread throughout America.
Like alcoholism, an alcoholic cannot thrive without their enablers. It is the same white Americans who enable their relatives and friends who are racist. It is important to identify and recognize that racism is a mental illness and recommend that individual to a psychotherapist as needed.
There is no easy way to contain a disease, but if we can identify the symptoms, then we can put a stop to it through education and awareness.
This is why it is very important to talk to a diverse group of people constantly. I remember ages ago being challenged by my friends, when I muttered that if only I can be around people who agreed with me all of the time. They said, a)that would be boring, and b) how would you know when you are wrong?