The danger behind taking down Confederate monuments,
like ISIS bombing museums
It becomes tiresome pointing out the same old historical half-truths when talking about the War Between the States.
So in the interest of not getting distracted from my main point, let’s ignore the many reasons other than slavery behind the formation of the Confederate States of America (CSA).
Why not? Most do already. Instead, let’s talk about why current politicians’ taking down monuments to CSA soldiers and politicians is far more dangerous than allowing them to remain.
First, a word about symbols. It is entirely possible, and in fact most often the case, that symbols can contain a multitude of meanings.
That meaning is determined by the context in the which the symbol is seen, and by the person the viewer of the symbol is.
You may see the U.S. flag, and feel inspired as it reminds you of patriotism and love of country; citizens of other countries often have a far different interpretation.
I see the cross, and am reminded of the inestimable love of Jesus, while non-Christians may have a negative reaction. And who is to say that one side is wrong?
Symbols do not have meaning separate from the context in which they exist. The meaning is an artificial construct — a red rose is simply a flower until someone from a culture which view both the flower and its color as significant sees it.
That means that it is entirely possible that the person who tells you a Confederate monument or flag represents pride in regional heritage is not in fact racist.
That does not mean that to someone else, the flag or monument does embody racism — usually the argument against the flags of the CSA are predicated on the fact that slavery was an economic issue behind the South’s dissatisfaction with remaining in the Union.
This completely ignores the objective fact that the Union did not disavow slavery upon commencing actions against the CSA, and continued to have slavery be legal in the slave states of the Union even AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation freed some slaves in very specific areas.
It is usually also brought up that racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan have used the flags, again ignoring the role of the U.S. flag in the racist groups’ rallies, etc.
Minus any evidence to the contrary, the fact is that it is the willful ignorance, or conscious ignoring, of these facts that allow politicians and various organizations to manipulate the public through craven appeal to a simplistic understanding.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars — from some unknown source — were used to remove statues and memorials in New Orleans.
Now the mayor can gleefully claim to have fought the nasty racists, and undoubtedly those who have rewarded him with accolades and their applause will continue to congratulate him and his cronies on this grand stand against racism.
It’s an easy — if tawdry — way to get a bump in approval. But at the end of the day, how has it made the life of even one New Orleans minority citizen better?
The supposedly private funds used to destroy part of the history of a city with a large amount of historical tourism might have been used to help rectify the housing shortage which continues to burden the largely minority workforce that enables the tourism industry to succeed.
It could have been used to help transform the lackluster public education system, enabling even the poorest citizens to have confidence that their children were receiving the kind of education which would equip them to take their place in society and be the kind of leaders so desperately needed in New Orleans.
Instead, it went to the wanton destruction of items that had no impact on the day-to-day lives of the very population most in need of having the real legacy of racism erased.
The greatest danger in this kind of empty political stunt is the fact it enables smug, self-satisfied Yankees and “progressive” Southerners to once again make the CSA and the South their racial scapegoat.
Northerners won’t have to grapple with the embedded racism that informed their region in the 1860s, and which continues to this day. Those self-hating Southerners can pretend that they have risen above it.
How glorious to be amongst the non-racists of the United States! How grand to know that there is nothing other than removing those statues that need be done!
The hard work of ensuring equality for all requires all hands on deck.
By seeking to alienate a large portion of citizens who rightly wish to preserve their historical heritage and NOT support racism, those who take advantage of the ignorance and easily swayed opinions of otherwise well-meaning liberals do the cause of freedom, justice and equality an extreme disservice.
It also doesn’t serve our nation in the long run to ignore large chunks of our history and pretend that the complexities of our past just didn’t exist.
It doesn’t advance us; it puts us on the level of ISIS and all those who delight in bombing statues, destroying museums and trying to erase that which doesn’t support their agenda.
CHRISTINE BARR is an educator, mother of four and former Henry County resident who now resides in Texas.