by Barbara Joy Cooley
The removal of Confederate statues and memorials is nothing new. This has been going on for decades. According to Jane Dailey, associate professor of history at the University of Chicago, “Most of the people who were involved in erecting the monuments were not necessarily erecting a monument to the past. But were rather, erecting them toward a white supremacist future.”
A white supremacist future goes against core American values such as liberty, equal rights, and justice. When we decide to take down these monuments and statues, relegating them often to museums, we are deciding to uphold these core American values. We are not erasing history; we are accurately portraying who we are as a country.
In America, we have a strong union, unlike the sometimes seemingly tenuous union in Europe. Our union was forged by the Civil War – the deadliest war in our history. When we remove statues of Confederate generals from places of public honor and put them in museums where they are displayed in context, we are presenting a more accurate picture of history, and we are declaring our patriotism, our devotion to these United States of America.
When we remove those Confederate monuments, we are also treating all Americans with respect – especially including those Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. I do not refer to these ancestors as slaves; rather, they were people who were enslaved, wrongly enslaved. They deserved liberty, not chains. America is all about liberty, not chains.
In nearby downtown Fort Myers, citizens have asked that the bust of Robert E. Lee not be returned to the public square, but rather, they say, it should be placed in a museum, and a liberty fountain should be installed on the public square in its place. The bust is at a professional restoration company, undergoing maintenance. When that’s finished would be an ideal time for it to go to a museum.
In that square across from the City of Palms parking garage and the U.S. Post Office could instead be a fountain signifying liberty and justice for all.
If you think these Confederate statues are not hurtful to black Americans, think again. For example, my Facebook friend Monique Thomas, a black American musician living in France, said recently, “There is no higher celebration than a statue. Taking down [Confederate] statues does not erase history. Firstly taking them down corrects a wrong because they never should have been erected in the first place. Secondly we learn history mostly through books (many of which need to be rewritten). You’ll never forget Hitler or Bin Laden (no statues that I know of!) . . . So please stop nit-picking about the statues. They are a hurtful reminder to your dear Black friends of how we are devalued and you wanting to keep them adds salt to the wound.”
As this country moves forward in this trend, removing and dismantling over 700 Confederate statues and monuments(1), we should replace them with monuments that represent liberty and justice for all. As we move in this direction, we move toward a future where we are all equal, liberty reigns, and racism dies.
(1) https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/com_whose_heritage.pdf, page 7.
Thank you, Barbara Cooley. You’ve said it so well & I totally agree. Removal of these Confederate memorials is long overdue. (And, they should never have been erected in the first place!)
Wonderful article and I totally agree with you.
In this day and age I am distraught and saddened that there is any opposition to removing statues, renaming military installations, streets and counties and removing the Confederate flag. There is no glorious history behind these vestiges of a sordid past. No refuge in a losing conflict, thousands of deaths and ignominious recovery. If we cannot face our history with clear eyes, let us take the blinkers off as we face our future.
Disagree. We can not erase the past. You present a worthy argument, I simply disagree. We are also erasing art that should be enjoyed. This is exactly what happened during the French Revolution. Art depicting Joan of Arc was melted down to make bullets and munitions, since St. Joan was viewed as a monarchist for restoring the rightful king of France to the throne.
Just to be clear, the suggestion was to put these in a museum where they can be displayed in context, not to melt them down.
I agree with everything you said. And I think we should focus on the reason for the protest marches more than the few violent incidents that have sometimes accompanied them. However, I also want to say that I was sad to hear that the statue of Ulysses Grant had been torn down in the frenzy. That must have been the result of ignorance of history. Grant was not only the commander of the union army, but also the single most important figure behind Reconstruction in realizing the ideals enshrined in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Frederick Douglas paired Grant with Lincoln as the two people who had done most to secure African American advances and added that Grant was “the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race.” More recently, historian Sean Wilentz has ratified this verdict: “The evidence clearly shows that [Grant] created the most auspicious record on racial equality and civil rights of any president from Lincoln to Lyndon B. Johnson.” (Chernow’s biography of Grant, introduction)
I do not advocate tearing anything down in a frenzy.
Thank you Barbara! Many have been trying to take down that Lee bust for years, it’s time to do it! While we are at it, I think that life sized portrait of Robert E. Lee in full Confederate uniform needs to be taken down from the Lee County Commissioners chambers and we should start seriously considering remaining this county. It was purposely named to honor General Lee and what he stood for even though he never once stepped foot on county soil and what he stood for was to keep African Americans enslaved and in chains (which is what the “states rights” argument was all about). I like “Calusa County” and think it rightfully represents the land we currently inhabit by honoring those who lived here many years ago before we came on the scene. It’s time to do all these things while we come to terms with the implicit bias and systemic racism that exists all around us.
Racism will not die in our country until the core progenitor and perpetrator of racism is utterly destroyed and eradicated. The historical record is clear as to who this is, the DNC, the democrat party. They were the slave owners, the founders of the KKK, the authors of Jim Crow laws, the segregationists, and down to today their driving core purpose is power. They abuse and take the black community for granted while keeping them in poverty and dependent on the government, all while using them to gain power. In recent times they have changed from referring to themselves as democrats to progressives. Princeton University has correctly taken the step to remove all campus references to Woodrow Wilson, the father of the modern progressive(democrat) party. Speaking of fathers, Nancy Pelosi’s father was a segregationist as mayor of Baltimore, MD. All the statues being taken down are those depicting democrats. The final solution can only be the complete eradication of the DNC and its relegation to the ash heap of history as the most racist organization our planet has ever known!
THANK YOU Steve!!! Couldn’t have said it better myself…
Barbara, I wholeheartedly agree with your article (or opinion piece, whatever it’s called)! Thank you for another excellent weekly contribution to the Santiva Chronicle!
Not everyone agrees to talking down statues that some believe only represent racial injustice of the past. Most everyone who has or is currently walking the face of this earth have done or said things that have been considered inappropriate. This does not necessarily mean they are bad people in general. I certainly disagree with mobs that take down statues that they think are offensive. There are legal means to address the presence of historical statues. Let’s all be kinder to each other.