Part 1 was published appropriately on June 19 also known as Juneteenth. The date in 1865 that slaves in Texas learned of their emancipation (that had actually occurred two years prior) and the end of the American Civil War. Part 1 discussed arguments that have been raised in support of keeping Confederate monuments and statues right where they are. You can read Part 1 here. Part 2 explores reasons and rationales I can think of for removing them.
First, I make no claim to having studied this issue extensively. I rely primarily on my experiences, feelings, and what I think is common sense. Second, I know others may have opinions that differ. If so, I invite you to share them along with the reasoning for your viewpoint. I promise a flame-free response. Improvements in race relations require that people are honest with each other and themselves.
The Confederacy Was Based On Preserving Slavery And White Supremacy
This point was made in Part 1. The issue of states’ rights is put forth as a major cause of the Civil War. But the right of states to protect slavery and to secede from the union (to maintain slaves) were the key states’ rights the Confederacy wanted to assert. The economic and social systems of the agrarian South required slavery. Southern slavery required the supremacy of the white race as a justification.
States’ rights was also the rallying cry of southerners during the civil rights era of the 1950s and 60s. The assertion was that states had the right to legally subjugate their African American citizens irrespective of federal law or the Constitution.
In the four years of the Civil War (1861 – 1865) Confederate armed forces suffered over 250,000 killed from all causes. That is almost five times the number of Americans killed in Vietnam in a war that lasted about three times longer. In 1860, the white population of the South was only about 8 million. Casualties in the Union ranks were even higher. It is hard to believe that the war began and continued despite so much suffering because the sides could not reach a compromise on tariffs and esoteric issues of federalism. The only issues on which there could be almost no compromise were slavery and secession to maintain slavery.
Those who find any merit in the position of the South should think about how much longer slavery would have persisted if the South had won. It might have lasted well into the 20th Century in an independent Confederate States of America, and, although post war history provides good guidance, no one knows what system would follow.
Slavery and white supremacy were at the heart of the Confederacy. Placing Confederate statues and monuments in prominent positions on government property is an express or implied endorsement of the Confederate cause. That mistake should be reversed.
Confederate Statues And Monuments Were Erected In Support Of Racism And White Supremacy
The Southern Poverty Law Center created charts to show the number of Confederate monuments and symbols being built over time.
The timing of establishing these monuments provides insight into the intent behind their placement. The second chart states:
The dedication of Confederate monuments and the use of Confederate names and other iconography began shortly after the Civil War ended in 1865. But two distinct periods saw significant spikes. 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. Many of these monuments were sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The second period began in the mid-1950s and lasted until the late 1960s, the period encompassing the modern civil rights
movement. While new monument activity has died down, since the 1980s the sons of Confederate Veterans has continued to erect new monuments.
A partial explanation for the biggest spikes might be that they coincide with periods that are 50 and 100 years after the Civil War. Those periods would likely see renewed interest in commemorating the war as well as renewed interest in reestablishing the antebellum social structure.
Confederate Monuments And Statues Are A Serious Affront To African Americans And Should Be To All
African Americans are very well aware of the message being sent by erecting in places of honor monuments and statues to people who fought tooth and nail to keep them in chains before emancipation and as close as possible to that former status after emancipation.
The message ain’t subtle. We read it loud and clear. To Blacks, putting statues and monuments to the Confederacy on government property is practically shouting something to the effect of “In your face! In case there was any doubt, here’s a friendly reminder that we think the people who espoused slavery and white supremacy were very fine people. We like them a lot, and long for the good old days.”
After the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Third Reich locals and conquering armies destroyed and defaced monuments to those regimes despite the fact that those leaders and governments were part of history and heritage.
Because Confederate generals and politicians were traitors and racists, honoring them should be an affront to everyone.
There Must Be Southerners We Can All Honor
Southern history must include some who opposed slavery and supported the rights of African Americans. A Google search for monuments to any such people yielded nothing. That might be a function of poor Google skills or there may be no such monuments.
Lee Opposed Confederate Monuments
Robert E. Lee was the most successful and most revered Confederate general. Lee commanded the powerful Army of Northern Virginia. After the war, Lee did not lend his support to efforts to build monuments to the Confederacy. He believed such efforts were divisive and impediments to healing the wounds of war.
Shortly after surrendering Lee became President of Washington University in Virginia. The school was subsequently named Washington and Lee University. He held that post until his death in 1870. Per his wishes, his funeral featured no Confederate flags or the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, which is now commonly regarded as the Confederate Flag. He was not buried in uniform and Confederate soldiers who attended were asked not to wear theirs.
Decades after his death, replicas of the Confederate battle flags were placed in the university chapel above Lee’s resting place. It seems that in the last few years, the university decided it was best to remove the flags and display them in a museum.
No one knows what Lee would think about Confederate flags and monuments today. However, he was very sensitive to the potential for division these symbols possess. I think Washington and Lee University made a wise decision to put the flags in a museum. We should learn from Lee and the university and reject divisive symbols.
Monuments and statues of dead, racist, loser, traitors are about a period no one should be proud of. It’s time to move on. The confederate statues and monuments best reflect the values of people like the ones who attended the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, VA to protest removal of a Lee statue.
I’d like for MAGA enthusiasts to explain exactly when America was great and what made it so. Greatness is not determined by military power, otherwise the Soviet Union was great. Greatness is not determined by economic power, otherwise The People’s Republic of China is great.
In my view the greatness of a country depends on its values and how it lives up to those values at home and abroad. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. In terms of justice and racial equality, America talks the talk, but doesn’t always walk the walk.
With Liberty And Justice For All – The Time For Lip Service Has Past
People like me who closely follow and participate in airline and hotel loyalty programs become frustrated, disillusioned and even angry when for various reasons those programs don’t provide the benefits and rewards they say we are entitled to by virtue of the business we provide and status we earn. Programs promise much and sometimes deliver little. Over promising and under delivering is how many Blacks feel about America.
Liberty and justice for all is one of the basic rights America boldly promises to all citizens. That phrase is the last line of the Pledge of Allegiance. In elementary school, we recited it every day before class. The phrase has little meaning for Black people. It is like those loyalty program promises that in reality are rarely fulfilled. Black people learn that lesson early, and it is regularly reinforced.
I’ll share a story about an incident from childhood that I vividly recall. In the early 60s my step father held a civilian administrative position at the U.S. Army Finance Center at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, IN. He wanted to move closer to the Fort or Fort Ben as we called it. Our family made an appointment to view a home in a modest middle class neighborhood a few minutes from his work. When we arrived, a white real estate agent answered the door. I will never forget the look of absolute shock and horror on the woman’s face. She began stuttering and stammering trying to think of reasons she could not show the house. It was obvious to me even at a young age.
Even after serving his country in WWII and spending months in hospital as a result of severe wounds from a German mine during the Italian Campaign, his skin color was the only thing that mattered. There are many other examples including the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and Breaonna Taylor, unarmed Black American needlessly killed by white police or vigilantes. After all of these experiences you can imagine what Black people think about “liberty and justice for all.”
On Father’s Day, I remember my stepfather and father, also a WWII veteran who earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service in the South Pacific.
For the reasons stated, I believe removing Confederate statues and monuments from public places of honor is long overdue. Thanks for reading and considering my thoughts on this subject. Please add your thoughts and opinions in the comments. Reasonable people often disagree, so feel free to do take a different position.