Confederate Monuments: Should they be Removed?


Photo Credit: Dallas Morning News

Jessica Townsend, Editor

There has been recent controversy over what to do with Confederate monuments in the south. Citizens are split over removing them and their racial connotations, and keeping them as a reminder of our history and pride. Unfortunately, Confederate monuments are not a symbol of southern pride. They are a symbol of shame and regret. We, as southerners, should not be honoring our ancestors for losing a war. Similarly, “The government should not honor people whose principal claim to fame is that they fought a bloody war in defense of the evil institution of slavery”(washingtonpost). We should learn from their mistakes, and progress as a nation. The first step: removing Confederate monuments.

It’s a cruel juxtaposition to see African Americans pass by statues of famous slave owners on their daily commute. La Peachra Bell, along with others, rallied to take down a confederate monument in front of the Caddo Parish Commission, in Shreveport, Louisiana. “Why would I praise a Confederate monument when it did nothing but bring hurt to my race?” Bell said. “Even if I was innocent, as a black man or a black woman, by the time I go in that courthouse, I’m passing by that … monument. It’s letting me know that my chances are slim, because they still respect somebody that murdered us. They raped us, they did all kinds of stuff to us that’s unthinkable.” The statue was removed in October 2017.

Views of both Confederate flags and monuments vary by race. Nearly half of whites in the south want the statues and flags to stay as they are, while half of blacks want them taken down. One thing that the majority of blacks and whites agree on is the fact that race relations are getting worse (thestate).

Many citizens argue that the statues represent states rights, not racial conflict. This goes against the word of Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, who said that their cause for succession was, “the theory that all men are created equal, and this made the basis of attack against her[the states] social institutions.” Their vice president, Alexander Stephens, said, “slavery . . . was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution,” and that protecting it was the “cornerstone” of the new Confederate government. Even the states official list of reasons for succession highlighted slavery over any other issue (washingtonpost).

South Carolina, being the first state to secede from The Union, has many controversial statues of Civil War figures. Some of the worst are: Benjamin “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, who didn’t actually fight in the Civil War, but he was the architect of the state’s 1895 Constitution, which stripped blacks of most of their post-war civil rights, James Marion Sims, known as the father of gynecology, who performed experimental surgeries on enslaved women without anesthesia, and Strom Thurmond, who conducted the longest ever speaking filibuster of a lone senator (24 hours and 18 minutes) in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Despite being an unyielding supporter of segregation, Thurmond insisted he was not racist.

Supporters of keeping the monuments claim that it is an important memory of our history. If this was true, it would be most fitting to relocate the statues into museums. Italy and Germany have long since removed all their communist monuments. We cannot change or erase our history of injustice, slavery, or even fascism, in Europe’s case. However, that doesn’t mean we should honor the men who gave us this shameful history. It is hypocritical to support both racial equality, and erecting monuments of the men who enslaved blacks. Confederate monuments should be taken down, and, if necessary, moved to museums.