Hell yes, it’s time America took them down.
Talking to friends who are against removing Confederate statues has opened my eyes to the number of Americans I know who are unknowingly perpetuating White Supremacist ideology. I’m not talking about people who willfully attend a KKK rally. I’m talking about acquaintances who are kind, friendly, funny, and that would never intentionally advocate for hurting a person of color. They’re not hateful people. That’s the problem.
The first argument I encountered was that black people and minorities are erasing history and destroying American heritage. This is a troubling view, especially because they don’t see anything wrong with it. White Supremacists believe black people and minorities are destroying white culture. It’s what motivates them. People don’t just accidentally go to a White Supremacist rally, this shared idea is a recruitment tool. It’s an idea they want to go mainstream, and a lot of Americans are helping it flourish, whether they consider themselves racist or not. Moving a statue from a park to a museum isn’t erasing history, in fact, the statue would be better contextualized at a Civil War museum. Nobody sees a statue at a park and thinks “That must have been a really bad dude.” You think the opposite, they must have done something important and worthy of remembrance. There is nothing worthy of white supremacy. Nothing. It shouldn’t even be given the benefit of the doubt.
“But where does it stop? Do we take down the Washington memorial? The Statue of Liberty?” Uh… no. Those are not Confederate monuments representing the White Supremacist cause as noble & American. Washington was a founding father who secured America’s independence, and the Statue of Liberty represents freedom, both ideas that are worthy of celebration. Monuments of Confederate leaders celebrate men who betrayed their oath to the Constitution. They were traitors who fought in the name of slavery.
“You’re wrong, the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about state rights.” Yes, the right for states to own slaves. History is actually pretty clear on this. In the official declaration of their secession, South Carolina’s delegates stated “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery.” Mississippi explained in their declaration of secession that "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world … a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.” In fact, Confederates opposed any states having the right to end slavery.
I can also tell you about a group of Americans for whom the Civil War was absolutely about slavery – Black people. The amount of white privilege it takes for someone to say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery is off-the-charts. Maybe for your ancestors supporting racism and slavery wasn’t an issue, but for black people it most certainly was. They are just as important as any other part of American history, so yeah, the Civil War was about slavery. And many of these statues were built decades after the Confederacy lost, during moments when the civil rights movement was fighting to change America for the better. Look at how many schools were named Robert E. Lee as a response to school desegregation. It was a calculated move used to remind black people of the power white supremacy still had over them.
So why do so many of my white friends unknowingly perpetuate this White Supremacy ideology? Because it’s normalized. The fact that America has statues of people who fought in favor of slavery isn’t helping. It’s a lie that helps the South sanitize its long history with white supremacy, instead of confronting it head-on like it should have done years ago. It reinforces the belief that if there is a statue of a Confederate leader, he couldn’t have been all bad. But now that full-on White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis are rallying around them, Americans must understand that they are beyond neutralizing these statues again.
And yet, the saddest argument I’ve encountered is people who argue that these monuments are a reminder for white people not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Well, I believe taking them down is actually the reminder they need. 72% of America says these statues should stay. They continue to spread the idea that white culture is more important, more American, and more worthy of protection than Black, Hispanic, or Native American culture. They will protest the removal of a White Supremacist statue but are okay with destroying a Native American burial ground to lay down a pipeline. Imagine the powerful statement removing statues of the Confederacy would send to the millions of Americans who continue to be hurt by racism and white supremacist ideology. Imagine the message it would send to those who still support it. You wouldn’t be erasing history, you’d be making it.