This Whole Confederate Monument Thing...
People continuously defend Confederate monuments, why they shouldn't be torn down, and how they represent "southern heritage." It honestly frustrates me to no end. I probably rant about this topic once a week, in conjunction with whatever else is going on in this country to preserve white supremacy. So with that being said, this post is more of me transcribing one of my verbal rants. I guess you could call it a stream of consciousness, which is exactly why I have the "Rambling" section here on my blog.
Lets dive in.
Last night I was thinking about the conflict surrounding the Confederate monuments because I plan on using that subject as the focus of a paper for one of my Conflict Management graduate classes. I went digging and found the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) publication online titled "Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy" and it was extremely informative and useful. A Google Drive document lists every type of Confederate symbol that there is, and categorizes them by state, county, city, etc. The document was last updated on July 27, 2018, and at that time, there were 1,740 Confederate symbols in the United States. 1,740!! I mean, I'd be lying if I said I was surprised, but still. Also, I think the number now should be 1,739 since Silent Sam was forced down in NC recently. Below are just some of the Confederate symbols the SPLC's document lists (named after generals, soldiers, segregationists, honoring the entire Confederacy, and so on) and the total number that exist are listed beside them:
Bodies of Water - 5
Bridges - 2
Buildings - 15
Cities - 24
Counties - 56
Highways/Roads - 647
Holidays/Observances - 23
Monuments - 772
Parks - 36
Schools - 105
This. Is. Not. Okay. It's just not. But when you have a country that was dead set on preserving and furthering white supremacy, then this is what you get. Last year around this time, the man in the White House (cue me yelling about how he is not my president) defended Confederate statues and said that the history and culture of the country was being "ripped apart. Really?! WRONG. Well, the man in the WH has also emboldened racism in this country, and constantly makes it obvious that white supremacy is important, so there's that. Not surprised in the slightest. But aaaanyway... An important fact to remember is the majority of the memorials were built with the intention not to honor fallen soldiers, but specifically to further ideals of white supremacy.
Many of the monuments were erected to instill fear in freed slaves and black people. It was intimidation. During slavery, an example was made out of slaves who "rebelled and disobeyed" their masters. They were whipped, beaten, raped, tortured, lynched, and any other horrific image you can conjure in your head, in front of other slaves. After Nat Turner's slave revolt in 1831, slave masters everywhere started killing slaves just to send a signal. This was to show power and put fear in the souls of black people. This same thing was happening when these monuments were erected: reinforcing power and instilling fear. The first symbol that has record of the year it was dedicated is the Davis Mountains, which are named after Jefferson Davis. Davis was the President of the Confederate States. After Reconstruction (ended in 1877), Jim Crow followed and the majority of monuments started going up in.....that's right...1877.
The Civil War was fought to preserve slavery. The Constitution of the Confederate States (March 11, 1861) explicitly protects slavery. Specifically Article IV. You can read the Constitution online. It's there. I read it a few years ago via Yale Law School's site. I can't even begin to tell you the number of people who try to argue with me and say the Civil War was fought for economic reasons.
So lets break that statement down. Southerners made huge profits from cotton and tobacco. Sure, the cotton gin was invented in 1794, but that doesn't mean slaves weren't needed as much (I've heard that argument before and I literally laughed in the man's face). The cotton gin reduced the labor of removing seeds, but it didn't reduce the need for slaves to grow and pick the cotton. Actually, the opposite happened. Cotton growing became such a huge profit that it increased the demand for slave labor. Economic reasons = SLAVES.
I've also had people tell me the war was fought to preserve states' rights.
States' rights = rights to keep slaves. There you have it.
You really want to have monuments of people who seceded from the Union because they wanted to keep my ancestors enslaved? So they could line them up like cattle and sell them? So they could rip babies from the arms of mothers and fathers when they were being sold? So they could whip and beat them everyday? So they could experiment on their bodies? So they could rape women and children repeatedly? So they could prevent my ancestors from ever being "free?"
Nah. Tear them ALL down.
These monuments still give a sense of pride to too many in America. These monuments are still idolized by people who fly Confederate flags and define "southern heritage." You seceded from the Union but want to fly your Confederate flag beside the American flag? That doesn't even make sense. If you seceded, you WERE NOT PART OF THE UNION. But lets please talk about patriotism only when black football players are kneeling while the National Anthem is playing, because THAT makes sense (sarcasm implied). A large part of America wants to say these monuments are to preserve southern heritage? Yea, well your "heritage" was plagued with racism, bigotry, and horrific acts of violence and exploitation of the black body. Your southern heritage was--and is still--racist. Don't get me wrong, racism is rampant everywhere in the US. Please don't incorrectly assume it is only the south because it definitely isn't.
You want to keep the monuments? Put them in a museum and include a description that explains that the reason the monuments were erected was to preserve white supremacy, put fear in black people, and normalize racism. People always say its good that there aren't statues of Joseph Goebbels and Hitler in Germany because of what they did during the Holocaust. How are these Confederate monuments any different (I know that answer to this, but that's a conversation about race and black people that I'm not going to get into right now)?
Tell the stories of slavery.
Tell the stories of Reconstruction.
Tell the stories of the KKK.
Tell the stories of the black cities and towns burned to the ground simply because black people were progressing after they were "free".
Tell about Wilmington, Rosewood, Tulsa, Atlanta, and Knoxville.
Tell the stories of lynchings, rapes, murders.
Tell how these monuments continue to remind us that America is proud of its racist history which has only allowed room for the systemic issues we are still facing in our country today.
Tell all of it. But don't tell me these monuments should mean anything positive to me.
(Image included in this blog post is from the Baltimore Sun.)