The Fifth Column 

Monuments and Their History

Proper education on the statues and names of confederates on buildings or monuments is needed to teach future generations from the immoral standpoint we have had for ages.  But putting meaning into a piece of metal, or on a name of a confederate building or monument is stopping us because people put too much emphasis on an inanimate object, instead of the injustice by the actual people.

In an article I read, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu stated that “these monuments could be used as places to mourn our past of slavery and segregation.  Instead, they honor it.  They are an inaccurate representation of our past, an insult to our present and a poor prescription for our future.  The right way, then, is to do away with these symbols of injustice.”  But how can that solve the problem, if the crimes of the past are still present in the minds of people’s ancestors, and the knowledge passed down each generation?  In another article, educator Joseph McGill has stated that “erasing history has always been a part of how Americans have dealt with the atrocities of the past.  There aren’t many buildings or statues that denote lynching, the genocide of Native Americans, World War II’s Japanese internment camps, and other horrific actions because we are not proud of them.  Some proponents of monument removal would argue that the violent roots of the Confederacy justify why its commemorations should disappear.  But I would argue that removal doesn’t solve our problems.”  And it doesn’t since the actions of those men and women, can’t be removed from history itself.  But the best we can do is to educate the future generations to not make the same mistakes of the past, so history doesn’t repeat itself.

There are also reasons why removing these monuments and buildings presents more problems.  By taking away the monuments, we lose a lot of educational value.  We would have much to improve on the past.  “In fact, scrubbing all visible traces of white supremacy from the landscape is nearly impossible and would mean we’d have few historical markers left.  A 2016 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center identified 718 Confederate monuments and statues scattered across the country.  That number does not include the schools or national holidays… New Orleans, for example, took down four Confederate monuments in April but left in place the statue of Andrew Jackson, the person responsible for the Trail of Tears…”  That in itself is a little ironic.  A community is demanding justification for the past crimes of racism in their heritage, yet don’t remove another monument from another racist atrocity.  In an article I read, Mayor Catherine Pugh has stated that “they’re coming down so fast, I don’t know if we have enough museums to house them or enough cemeteries to stick them in.”  Though there are right ideas on how to deal with the statues, there isn’t really any place to put them for proper education.  This is a problem, because if we don’t have any place to put them, then we have no place to teach the history.

Removal, in general, is a problem, as Mitch Landrieu stated in a Newsela article, “Getting here wasn’t easy.  It took a two-year review process, a City Council vote and victories over multiple legal challenges.  The original firm we’d hired to remove the monuments backed out after receiving death threats and having one employee’s car set ablaze.  Nearly every heavy-crane company in southern Louisiana has received threats from opponents.”  Not only does removal have to pass through the legal system, but people who have been hired have received threats that endanger their lives.  In Baltimore, the issue is still being worked out on how to commemorate the past properly.  Elizabeth Nix a history professor at the University of Baltimore, has stated that “there were a wide variety of opinions about the statues and about how we should remember Baltimore’s complicated situation during the Civil War…”  creating more of a debate on how to deal with the statues.

In all honesty, the simple solution is to stop putting too much emphasis on the name of the building or monuments, or the metal that makes the statue.  Renaming the building or monument will more than likely be cheaper than to rebuild a building.  Replacing the plaque on a statue to teach the people the proper history behind them would also be simpler.  I have read that Baltimore’s City Councilman Brandon Scott thought, “that they should be melted down and repurposed for statues that can show true Baltimoreans and true American, great American history.”  Creating another creative way on how to deal with the statues, while presenting the proper history of the statue.

CC BY-SA 4.0
Monuments and Their History
by Xavier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This article was prepared by a young writer through Youth Voices, an exciting initiative helping students find their own voice in the digital world. 

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