In light of last month’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white nationalists clashed with anti-racist protestors over the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, a nationwide debate over whether or not the removal of Confederate monuments should be condoned has been sparked. Many patriotic Americans proudly support immortalizing Civil War heroes in stone; however, others have some strong reservations for many good reasons. If we want to truly preserve our nation’s core values of liberty and freedom, we should tear all remaining Confederate statues down.
During the years leading up to the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, up to 11 Southern slave-holding states — who believed that Lincoln was going to abolish slavery — seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy. Furthermore, throughout the Civil War, the Confederate states, where slavery was fundamental to the Southern economy and way of life, fought to preserve their right to own slaves.
Now, more than 150 years after the Civil War has ended, around 1,500 Confederate symbols still remain standing. Their purpose is to celebrate leaders such as Robert E. Lee (the general who commanded the Confederate army), who fought for white supremacy, the moral integrity of slavery, and the inferiority of African-Americans.
While some politicians were not afraid to call out the violent white nationalists (such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who called them “repulsive”), President Donald Trump defended them, saying that they included “some very fine people.” He’s sending out an alarming message: that it’s okay for Americans like them to honor those who risked their lives to preserve the white status quo and the brutal exploitation of an entire group of people. They’re saying that the ideals of a 18th-century America still belong in the 21st century, even when our country is made up of millions of immigrants. They’re saying that decades of civil rights movements and progression have all been for nothing, and minority groups are still inferior — despite the fact that it’s 2017.
That’s why these statues do not belong.
According to Trump, racism is still okay — and it’s incredibly insulting to the many people who call America their home.
Supporters of keeping up the statues argue that they’re symbols of patriotism; however, no patriot should be proud of a country that openly celebrates slave-holders. While Confederate leaders such as Robert E. Lee might be described by some as war heroes, don’t forget that they were leading an entire movement to keep 4 million slaves suffering and under their control. This is not a history that anyone should be proud of.
Furthermore, many argue that demolishing these statues would erase an essential part of history, which would prevent us from looking back on our past and learning from our mistakes in the future. That’s not true. Destroying these statues would not necessarily erase history: just take a look at Germany. Even though they’ve already gotten rid of nearly every single Nazi monument, everyone still knows what the Holocaust is, and everyone still wants to avoid the same mistake. Germany was ashamed of its history, and it acted appropriately.
As New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, who decided to destroy three Confederate monuments in his city, says, “They were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.” The mere existence of these statues is insulting. Removing the statues will not mean that we’re hiding history or getting rid of symbols of bravery and patriotism — rather, they’ll make all Americans, regardless of who they are or what background they come from, feel more safe and welcome in this country.