Analysis: Confederate Statue debate
October 24, 2017
Cartoon drawn by Alice Cai, reporter and illustrator.
Tear them down
Over 150 years after the end of the Civil War, debates are still raging over how the Confederacy will be remembered.
Over the past few years, state and local governments have been grappling with the decision of removing or preserving monuments dedicated to members of the Confederate States of America.
The conversation about removing symbols of the Confederacy began with the 2015 mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where white supremacist Dylann Roof entered a Black church and murdered nine people. Roof associated himself with the Confederate flag, which caused the government of South Carolina to make the decision to take down the Confederate flag at the state capitol.
Since these events, both state and local governments primarily located in the South have questioned taking down their own Confederate monuments.
The erection of Confederate statues and other monuments should never have taken place, and the fact that the monuments are only recently coming down is frankly embarrassing.
The Confederate States of America sought to divide the United States in order to preserve the institution of slavery- one that subjected millions of people to brutal conditions for nearly 250 years. Slaves in America were tortured, raped, and murdered, and families were separated from one another. As punishment, slave owners burned, mutilated, and whipped their slaves. These horrific events were legal and seen as normal in the United States for years, and when the federal government began to talk of banning slavery, eleven states seceded from the United States to form their own country where they could continue to use slave labor.
The majority of the memorials in the United States were built not directly after the Civil War, but during the period of Jim Crow segregation. The monuments were not created to inform the public of prominent members of the Confederacy but to intimidate and frighten African Americans. Personal heritage is not an excuse for wanting the statues to remain standing. There is no reason to be proud of having slave owners or Confederate generals in a person’s family history.
Confederate monuments should be removed from public spaces and relocated to museums. The purpose of museums is to educate those who visit, and there is nothing wrong with dedicating parts of history museums to the Civil War. But having the monuments on display to the public glorifies the men who actively tried to divide the country and were responsible for countless deaths.
Personal heritage is not an excuse for wanting the statues to remain standing. There is no reason to be proud of having slave owners or Confederate generals in a person’s family history.
Leave them up
An issue that has been divisive in the modern United States has been whether or not Confederate statues should remain up or be torn down.
To begin, the statues are a reminder of how far this nation has come. That the United States had survived a civil war, an event that usually destroys a country, and the broken nation healed. That after the conflict that put father against son, friend against friend and north against south, families joined back together. There were those that opposed the reconstruction and made it more difficult than it could have been, but we came together as a nation.
History is doomed to repeat itself if measures are not taken to educate the next generation and these statues are the perfect way to teach about the trying times of the US. History is controversial in nature. There is a different feeling when you not only read about history but see it. Take Pearl Harbor as a example. Reading about who will live in infamy is saddening, but setting foot in Pearl Harbor and seeing the sunken ships that are the resting place of dozens of sailors, talking to a survivor and hearing the dread in his voice, laying eyes on slabs inscribed with the name of each ship damaged or sunk, is like walking on an alien planet. Sadness hangs in the air. To walk up to a statue, a grim reminder of a past many want to forget teaches more lessons than a history book ever will. Yet there are those that want to tear them down. People that would riot and scream until the local government quietly drove the statues away in the dead of night. People that would rip names off park benches and schools, starting witch hunts to eradicate something that is a touchy subject.
It is understandable as to why people want these statues to be hauled off to never see the light of day again. They echo back to a period of America history that most wish never happened, but now men and women of any race and religion can afford the opportunities that were once fantasy, and those portrayed in the statues could not do anything about it.
“People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: VAPORIZED was the usual word.” 1984, George Orwell.