On Wednesday, Sept. 8, the towering statue of Robert E. Lee was taken down in the city of Richmond. Shortly after its removal, cheers erupted in the streets exhibiting the relief that communities felt after a confederate and racist general ceased to be glorified on Monument Avenue.
Why is this a good thing? A statue that has been present for over a century is suddenly taken down. A better question is why it was ever assembled in the first place.
Ideally, the United States was striving to demonstrate less racism after the Civil War. The extremely unethical values that the Confederacy stood for was defeated; paving the way for a moral transformation in America. However, this, coupled with segregation and poll taxes was obviously not the case, given the fact that it took nearly 150 years for this grotesque monument to be disassembled.
Unfortunately, this one monument does not erase America’s racist and prejudiced history. There are still dozens of extremely offensive monuments across the country, including many at State Capitols.
The larger question is this: when is America going to fully challenge that preserving Confederate history is exactly the same thing as preserving the Confederacy’s racist doctrine? After all, a statue that came down less than a month ago portrayed a man who believed and fought for enslavement for the entirety of one’s life.
Starting in the late 1800s, the Lost Cause movement began in an attempt to glorify slavery, the Civil War, and racism. This movement, along with other things, wanted to paint the lives of slaves as willing and faithful servants.
This same movement also moved to glorify Confederate soldiers and sympathizers as honorable and decent. The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Confederate Veterans’ Association are examples of groups who tried to portray the Confederacy as an honorable faction.
While the U.S. could not continue to justify slavery, Jim Crow laws appeared in the late 1860s and were only abolished in the late 1960s. This was again, another attempt to justify racism and give the illusion of equality while instituting a system where black Americans had far less education, net worth, and influence.
The monuments we see, to this day, are a reflection of that time and movement. A false representation of what the Confederacy was still manifests itself in modern America.
Robert E. Lee was not by any definition, a decent or honorable human being. He devoted his life to fighting for the enslavement of black Americans who were not treated as equals or citizens of the United States.
It can be argued that members of the Confederacy should be portrayed as art in America given the fact that they are part of our history. I rebuke this argument because the United States and the Confederacy were two competing factions in the Civil War.
Any former geographical connection is certainly outweighed by the difference in morality between present-day America and the Confederacy. These embarrassing statues should never be displayed or glorified in public view.
While it is true that one cannot change history, we should commit ourselves, as Americans, in making sure that any embarrassing doctrine or attitudes of our past cannot leach into our present-day society. Going forward, we cannot allow treasonous members of the Confederate military to be glorified.
There are those who want to keep these offensive statues because they feel patriotism toward their country. My question is, what part of the confederacy do they feel patriotism toward? The answer portrayed in these statues is a racist, corrupt, and embarrassing part of American History.
Recently, in the United States, we have seen calls for racial and social justice. These messages and protests are a positive contribution to our society. However, honoring a confederate general is quite the opposite of a positive contribution.
I firmly believe that retaining statues and monuments of people who the American People consider to be vastly immoral is wrong, and is not how we make progress as a nation.
I am relieved that the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue has been taken down. I also believe that there is a greater potential for change ahead. We cannot stop here. All monuments that glorify embarrassing and distasteful chapters in American history ought to be taken out of public view forever.