Natalia Artz

Erasing racism, not history

Confederate monuments and the debates over their removal have been plastered across the news. Some call for their immediate relocation; others say that to remove unpleasant history is to toe the line of erasing it.

September 6, 2017

A racist by any other name is just as racist.

Wanting to preserve history is an understandable viewpoint. But there’s a fine line between preserving history and praising it.

Though the intent at the construction of Confederate statues may not at the time have been to directly support racism, the Confederacy represents the ideals of the Civil War South and the inherent racism present in it. The Confederacy stood for all things un-American: secession from the union of the states, and the denial of human rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Its symbols should not be preserved.

Cautionary tales

Monuments are intended to idealize, to memorialize, to ensure the carrying on of a legacy.

The legacy of slavery and oppression should never be carried on.

We cannot and should not praise the oppressors. Keep them in museums and textbooks, for certain.

But they should never be treated as anything other than a cautionary tale. If the purpose of preserving history is to learn from our mistakes, then it simply makes no sense to be naming elementary schools after people who fought to the bitter end to keep others in chains.

If monuments are to be put up, surely they should be in honor of those who broke chains, not put them on in the first place.

Removal

The removal of Confederate monuments is just as controversial as the monuments themselves.

A rally was held in Charlottesville Virginia, where Neo-Nazis gathered in arms to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. 19 people were injured and one was killed when a car slammed through a crowd of protesters. How much violence has been incited over these beacons of racist sentiment?

The protest received national recognition, after the violence. President Donald Trump responded by declaring that there were, “good people on both sides.”

There are no two sides to hate.

There are no two sides to bigotry.

Opinions on both sides of a debate should always be considered. But not if the opinion of one side calls for the oppression of the other.

The statues themselves may not stand for hatred, but they inspire those who do.

Destruction

But this doesn’t mean Confederate monuments need to be destroyed.

In Durham, North Carolina, protesters toppled a Confederate monument after their complaints about it went unanswered by the city.

This is not the answer either.

It may feel satisfying to knock over a symbol of hatred, but the repercussions of these actions could lead to even more problems and backlash down the line. Monuments are private property, and so should not be defaced or destroyed. Nonetheless, if the purpose of these monuments is solely to preserve history, surely they would be best placed where history is best kept- museums.

Teaching history is a necessity for both sides, but there are some aspects of history that only deserve acknowledgment, not open praise. By putting these statues into museums, we could educate without encouraging similar actions.

Local impact

These statues aren’t just located in some far-off backwards land in the deep south. They’re much closer to home than some may think.

Hillsborough County Commissioners passed a motion to remove a memorial to confederate soldiers in front of the county courthouse earlier this month. A stipulation of the motion was that funds for the monument’s removal had to be raised using private funds. In less than one day, the total cost of removal was covered by private donations. Notable donors included Bob Buckhorn and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It is more than possible to remove these monuments peacefully and legally; it is not only our right, it is our responsibility.

As long as we praise oppressors, we deny ourselves true social progress.

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