Since the death of George Floyd and the ongoing protests against systemic racism, we have seen a renewed call for the removal of certain historic symbols and commemorative statues. It is significant to know that the Confederate statues were not built at the end of the Civil War but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By that time, the narrative about the reason for the Civil War had been reimagined as a war for states’ rights. Glorification of the Confederate cause became the perception, and the true horror that was slavery was just a footnote.
The prevailing argument for preserving these statues is that they represent our history. Supposedly they are a way to teach us about the past. I disagree. A good case in point is Albert Pike. He was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army for two years. Prior to his tenure, he was an avid defender of slavery who is reported to have written that the use of slaves “was more efficient than farm labor.” His service as a general ended when he was charged with misappropriation of funds and for letting his troops mutilate Union soldiers in an 1862 battle. It was also rumored that he had written the rituals of the Ku Klux Klan. This monument was torn down and burned by protestors on June 19 this year, and I say rightly so.
Today black Americans are forced to live in the shadow of statues erected to honor the very people who fought to enslave them. After emancipation, enslavement continued in the form of segregation and Jim Crow legislation. These statues are a constant reminder of the equality that has yet to be achieved and the obstacles that have yet to be overcome.
We can learn nothing from symbols that misrepresent the true story. History is taught in the classroom, in books and in museums, not on statues erected to someone with a sketchy past and questionable, if not downright despicable character.
It is time to right a wrong. We have to stop fighting the battle for a past that did not exist. It is time to look to a more unified future and leave the racism, bigotry and hate behind.
Take the statues down.