In a presidency full of the inflammatory statements that propelled him to an improbable election win, none can be so controversial as Donald Trump’s remarks on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and removal of Confederate statues.
These remarks mark a new development in the racial clashes that are none more apparent than in the ongoing debate about the removal of the Confederate statues scattered all across the South. Memorials of the Confederate leaders that betrayed the nation during the Civil War, these statues hold a controversial place in the hearts of many Americans.
Defenders of the statues will have it that the statues do not glorify racism by depicting Confederate leaders, but rather serve as a reminder of the South’s history. They defend the Confederate leaders themselves, saying that such men did not support slavery, but only fought for the South because of their devotion to their home states. They cite cherry-picked examples of their supposed displays of tolerance and change of heart towards black people long after the end of the Civil War. Trump, a prominent defender of the statues himself, has gone so far to claim the statues to be so important that to remove them would be to erase history.
Naturally, there are a multitude of things wrong with these statements. Firstly, those Confederate leaders that ostensibly displayed their tolerance after the end of the war, who supposedly secretly abhorred slavery – no matter how much one may defend their actions and beliefs, it does not change the fact that they betrayed our nation in support of an immoral cause. People are complex – a few good traits will not change these leaders’ actions or morally questionable decisions.
Another thing: destroying Confederate statues is not “erasing history”. Rather, it is simply a destruction of the symbols of the institution that so cruelly treated black Americans. These symbols, these Confederate leaders, this history – they still exist in the form of history books and museums. They should not be glorified in the form of statues and monuments. They should only be remembered for what they are – reminders of our dark past, reminders of the war that almost tore our country apart.
These men that caused hundreds of thousands of people, black and white, to die – there is no reason for us to glorify them. Destroying these statues will not “erase history.” It will only stop future generations from idolizing these Confederate leaders that almost destroyed the nation in the Civil War.
There is no good reason to support the continued existence of Confederate statues. They do not “remind us of our history”, but rather glorify men who, although perhaps good in other respects, still betrayed our nation to help the South protect slavery. Only by permanently removing these monuments to slavery and racism and remembering the Confederacy only in our museums and history books will we take a first step in the changing of our country’s lingering racist culture.