Shenanigans are abounding, so you may have missed the fact that yesterday, September 8, Virginia took down a giant statue of Robert E. Lee. This is actually a huge moment, even though it may have reignited your sister’s boyfriend, Deuce, and his comments on how crazy the liberal agenda is getting. So, if you happen to find yourself arguing on the end of a facebook page…let me help you out.
You see…monuments, are not history. Monuments are statements, often statements about power. And a Robert E. Lee statue in the middle of Virginia was a statement of white supremacy. Full. Stop.
Let’s break it down.
In 1890 Virginia erected this massive statue of Robert E. Lee on what would become known as “monument avenue,” which featured a bunch of other confederate statues too. That year, 1890, is actually quite important to the story. By 1890, Reconstruction was over, and Jim Crow was beginning. Put simply, Jim Crow was racial segregation and white supremacy codified into law. In fact, a spike of Confederate monuments erected throughout the nation occurred between 1890 and 1920.
There were a lot of groups that funded and organized these monuments, but the Daughters of the Confederacy were one of the most prolific funders and organizers, and I also blame them for our current rhetoric regarding history in the classroom. Like, legit, they just lied about the Civil War and slavery and made it curriculum and history teachers still have to fight the general public about it to this day….
But I digress.
Confederate monuments (and honestly monuments in general) are not history, and we are not erasing history by bringing them down. Instead, we are reckoning with history. I’ve talked before about how history is simply a change, or lack of change, over time.
But, in the situation of Confederate monuments, it was a digression. The south erected monuments of Confederate leaders as a huge power play, a scare tactic if you will. These monuments were large, powerful, visible reminders that the south wanted (and codified) a white supremacist social hierarchy. Monuments were put up specifically to reinforce that hierarchy, and history was changed to fit a particular political narrative, that of the “lost cause“. Which, not coincidentally, also took hold in the 1890’s (remember I told you that date was important!).
So, if you happen to be in a fight with your crazy Aunt on facebook, or your sister’s boyfriend Deuce, have them consider these questions; what was the argument of that monument? What is the importance? What is the “ok…so what?” part of that monument? Is it really worth keeping up? Or, as is often the case, does the harm perpetuated by that monument outweigh everything else?
Because confederate monuments, they are about white supremacy, and they should all be removed. They aren’t history. If you want history, check out The American Yawp, an open source history textbook. BOOM, history done by historians! Wow!
Next, I hope Stone Mountain gets erased.