WHAT IT IS
- A statute or monument is built to honor or keep alive an important person or historical event. [Merriam-Webster]
- There are about 1,741 public symbols of the Confederacy across the United States. [Southern Poverty Law Center]
- These symbols include statues, monuments, schools, flags, parks, bridges, roads, and more. [Aljazeera]
- After George Floyd's death, protests erupted across the country over police violence and systemic racism in America. [The Los Angeles Times]
- Protesters and activists are demanding these monuments be removed as many view Confederate and colonial symbols as public displays of America's systemic racism.
- Demands for monuments to be removed started in 2017 after a self-described neo-Nazi killed a peaceful protestor with his car. [The New York Times]
- Since 2017, at least 44 monuments have been removed by protestors or political leaders. [Aljazeera]
WHY IT MATTERS
CIVICS: The Confederate States of America was a collection of 11 states that seceded from the United States in 1860 following the election of President Abraham Lincoln. [HISTORY]
- Confederate politics was centered on the idea of states’ rights to slavery to support the South’s agricultural economy. Slave-dominated, cotton-producing agricultural southern states embraced secession and the Confederacy as the solution. [HISTORY]
SOCIAL: Progress and change often start with public displays of support.
- According to a Quinnipiac University Poll survey, 52% of American voters support removing Confederate statutes; 44% oppose removing them. [NPR]
Will those in power make systemic changes that reflect the majority support for racial equality in America?
Black Americans, especially descendants of former slaves, say Confederate symbols across the country are painful reminders of America's history of slavery and on-going battle with racism. [BBC]
Symbol of racism
Supporters of removing the statues say the monuments glorify leaders of the Confederacy, the cause they went to war for (protecting slavery), and the ideals that stemmed from the Civil War including white supremacy. [NPR]
- "Most of the people who were involved in erecting the monuments were not necessarily erecting a monument to the past... But were rather, erecting them toward a white supremacist future." -Jane Dailey, professor of history at the University of Chicago
Why honor hate?
Some draw parallels between the dark past of the American Confederacy and Nazi Germany.
Germany does not have symbols honoring Nazi soldiers, so why should America honor Confederate soldiers? [Politico]
Those who support keeping the statues feel the monuments are historical and worry protestors are attempting to erase the history of the United States.
Others believe Confederate symbols, like the Confederate flag, are apart of their culture. [The New York Times]
The good and the ugly
Some activists who support removing the statues say that if the statues remain, Americans must learn to view them as symbols of our dark history.
Some believe if we tell the truth about these individuals and appropriately learn from our dark past, the monuments and symbols of the Confederacy can serve as a reminder for where we have come and where we need to still go. [The Washington Post]
WHERE WE ARE NOW
- Jun. 18, 2020: Portraits of four former House of Representatives speakers who served the Confederacy will be removed from the U.S. Capitol. [Reuters]
- Jun. 19, 2020: Protesters in Portland, Oregon tore down a statue of George Washington that was erected in the 1920s. [Associated Press]
- Jun. 20, 2020: Protesters tore down a statue of the writer of America’s national anthem and Ulysses Grant, the general who won the country’s Civil War that ended widespread slavery. [Associated Press]
- Jun. 21, 2020: The American Museum of Natural History will remove the statue of Theodore Roosevelt from its entrance after years of objections that it symbolizes colonial expansion and racial discrimination. [Associated Press]
- Jun. 27, 2020: President Trump signed an executive order directing federal law enforcement agencies to (1) clean and restore monuments, (2) prosecute people who damage monuments, and (3) to withhold portions of federal funding to cities that do not protect statues from demonstrators. [Vox]
- July 22, 2020: The House of Representatives voted to remove Confederate statues and symbols of white supremacy from the Capitol. The Senate is expected to block the move. [The New York Times]
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- Is the removal of Confederate symbols meaningless or meaningful change? Does activism change history?
- Is there a difference between monuments to George Washington and Stonewall Jackson, both of which were slave owners?
- "Why Can’t I Appreciate the Confederate Flag and Also Condemn Racism?" Read more from The New York Times.
- How do you ensure an activist movement remains peaceful?
- Is this cancel culture? Why or why not?