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Confederate statues: should they stay or should they go?

Sean W. Cooper, Staff Writer

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Photo by Scott Threlkeld/AP

On May 19th, the New Orleans Police Department gathered around a 16-foot, bronze statue of Robert E. Lee, standing on a 60-foot base, as they prepared for the monument to be taken down.

This was the last Confederate statue to stand in New Orleans, after three others had been removed from the city within the preceding month.

New Orleans was not the first city to erase its commemorations of the Confederacy, and it will not be the last. Even more recently, the city of Baltimore announced its intent to remove its own.

Nor is the debate over these removals new. It has likely existed in nascence for a few decades but escalated greatly in the wake of a shooting at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C., in July of 2015.

The backlash began with Amazon and eBay discontinuing their sales of Confederate flags, and continued with the NAACP’s Atlanta chapter calling for the removal of Confederate engravings from Stone Mountain.

The desire to change our memory of history seems to be a distinctly American mindset. In Europe, concentration camps still stand, as do the sites built for Hitler’s Nazi rallies. Yet the statues that stood in New Orleans were the last Confederate statues to stand in any major city, save for those in the Arlington National Cemetery and in Baltimore.

The act of removing these historical artifacts is no doubt one done in the name of political correctness. Let’s be clear that there is nothing wrong with being politically correct if doing so also means being logically correct. The push to erase the artifacts of the Confederacy simply isn’t as “progressive” as many would care to believe.

Indeed too, some of the logical ramifications of these removals do not add up as entirely positive. If we are to erase our memory of slavery altogether, we are to also eliminate the cultural staples that emerged from slavery which still exist today, such as soul food and gospel music.

Moreover, if we are to erase history, we are to disregard the millions of African-Americans who live in the United States today, as the vast majority are descendants of slaves.

Furthermore, the claim that these artifacts are “racist” comes with an ignorance for what the Confederacy represented and why the Civil War was fought. Dare I say America needs to be reminded that the causes of the South’s secession were primarily economic, and that slavery was an added factor following the Emancipation Proclamation.

Many argue that the monuments should remain simply for the sake of southern pride, and that is a valid argument.  It is only right that we should commemorate accomplishments of the past and remember war heroes like Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.  We are nothing if not composed of our heritage, and to southerners, the Confederacy means a great deal.

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Confederate statues: should they stay or should they go?