We’re tired of being fooled by the commercial salesman and his lofty promises. We want the non-dramatized fact-of-the-matter truth. We’re too smart to be fooled by the bland history bereft of reality. We know Christopher Columbus didn’t just dine with the Native Americans. We also know the Civil War was bigger than abolishing slavery. It defined us as a nation, and through a hard-fought conflict, the resolution united us.
As part of our modern American culture, I often question the validity of things in search of the truth of the matter. Lately, I have questioned the validity of both sides of the debate on taking down Confederate statues. Let’s look at a few points.
• If you take down the statues, you’ll erase our history. No part of this ordeal is about erasing history. The issue at hand is about recognizing historical truths, not scrubbing it clean of every injustice. The statues may remind us of our ancestors who fought for threatened rights, but they also remind us that equality would not be won by a few strokes of the pen, even if they were made to set laws by the president of the United States. The battle surrounding what these statues really stand for rages on even today. It’s honestly just not as simple as saying they’re all symbols of racism and the KKK. But in the Jim Crow era following Reconstruction, imagine seeing these erected as a Southern black person trying to exercise freedoms that only seemed to exist on a piece of paper.
Keeping these statues in prominent places does not tell the whole story. It just provides a reminder that certain groups would keep up the fight against equality, and they were the ones with the power to buy statues.
• Confederate symbols are about heritage, not hate. I’ve lived in the South my entire life, and I even once owned a Confederate flag pocketknife with the inscription, ‘heritage not hate.’ I sympathize with the notion that our ancestors fought for state’s rights and stood up for what they wanted with that stubborn Southern pride. These men were brave, and many of them lost their lives in the fight, exhibiting true American qualities. I’ve heard plenty about how the men represented in these statues were heroic and even kind to the slaves they kept. These are all good points except for one thing; they lost. Who keeps memorials to the losing side? It’s illogical, which means there were other motivations at play besides just remembering that we tried and failed.
These symbols keep us divided.
White supremacy is wrong. It’s not a joke. It’s not something we can shrug off and let other people worry about. We are responsible for our own inset prejudice. We are responsible for perpetuating an ideology that centers on hate. Even though the Confederage flag and monuments seem to symbolize Southern pride, they were placed as a reminder that this ideological prejudice would continue and society would somehow still profit from discrimination. A law alone wouldn’t and couldn’t actually unite us. They were a reminder that lynchings, burnings and racist acts could continue as long as the law was technically satisfied and those in power were willing to look the other way.
I don’t agree with people tearing down the statues like they’re Saddam Hussein. We need to respect our history and what we learned from that point in time. We recognize that all men are created equal, but after the Civil War, we were equal by law for decades until some real change took place, and segregation became a ghost of the past.
No matter what the statues stand for to the individual, in the eyes of history they stand as a testament to institutionalized racism. Nobody wants to forget the conflict that led to the end of slavery. Why would we? All sides need to be equally represented and recognized for their reality.
There’s something that reaches beyond the confines of whether it is right or wrong to move the statues to less prominent locations. The bigger issue is how it’s dividing us. We’re quick to take up arms about things we feel strongly about. I guess it’s our right as Americans to do so, but what is weaker than a divided country? What is worse than someone who refuses to listen to all sides before making an informed decision about how to proceed? So far, it’s only gotten us death.
Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.