Over the course of the past two weeks, the controversy following the removal of the Confederate statues in areas such as Charlottesville, Virginia has captivated the nation on what is the true reason behind keeping these statues around. The Right claims: “[We] should also consider which parts of our history we are most proud of, and most eager to uphold. Conservatives believe in preserving and carrying on the best of the past- not is worst,” according to Gary Olmstead in The Federalist. The Left claims: “The Confederate flag lionzes both racists and class traitors- indeed the two are inseparable,” according to Tyler Zimmer in the Jacobin.
If you are someone who has kept up with current events, you have seen the video evidence of the stone effigies being taken down by little manpower and a single tug at rope tied around them.
My only question to the whole situation is that if these statues were being labeled as “beautiful monuments to our history”, then how come the material used in these statues are cheaply made instead of quality materials such as fine granite?
You read that correctly, the statues being removed have easily toppled over from the use of cheap material; and that is due to mass production which was pumping out these statues quickly and inexpensively. Now, these details don’t correlate with the erection of historical monuments in respect to Southern heritage that we have been lead to believe about these statues. That is due to these generic, nameless statues having had contributed to the Lost Cause era; a time in history that “[allowed] Southerners to cope with the social, political, and economic changes after the Civil War especially in the oppressive Reconstruction era.”
Business Organizations like the Monumental Bronze Company specialized in producing these figures for only a few hundred dollars. Other organizations such as The United Daughters of The Confederacy would dedicate their time and financially provide for towns that couldn’t afford to have these statues. The UDC has also had a hand in the erasure of black history in Southern textbooks. Susan Pendleton Lee, an 1865 published author of the textbook, A School History of the United States, whitewashed the history of the Civil War in statements such as “hundreds of thousands of African savages…had been Christianized under its influence—the kindest relations existed between the slaves and their owners.”
This past effacing and rewriting of the United States’ history is pushing this mass propaganda that the Confederacy was not fighting for slavery, but instead for the preservation of Southern heritage.
According to a study done by the Southern Poverty Law Center, most of these statues arose during extreme civil rights tension, in the 1900s and again in the 50s and 60s. The Jim Crow Era and the Civil Rights movement.
Whilst we can acknowledge that there is a side to the argument that is making allegations that the Left is using the removal of the statues to further their own agenda of political correctness that borders on extreme sensitivity; the case of these statues goes against the Right’s argument that these statues are representing our gritty history. What monuments of dedication are labeled as “Single Soldier” in honor of the fallen Confederate soldiers? The case of these statues were to cause friction against the ever going political resistance against the inequality that was shown against African Americans. If we were to truly recognize the history behind the Confederacy, we can allow them in contextualized public spaces such as museums as a lesson to not allow history to repeat itself again.
It is not about the eradication of our history. It is about understanding our entire history. There needs to be no justification for the South’s past, but a broader understanding of its history and the exclusion made by the statues must be present.