Since the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) has been calling for a transformation of America — not just in terms of racism and how blacks are treated but also the revision of the American landscape. By landscape revision, I mean the removal of Confederate statues and statues of slaveowners, slave traders, and pro-slavery people who have statues built in their honor.
Some ask the question, “Why must the Confederate and pro-slavery statues be removed? I understand the Black Lives Matter movement. I understand that blacks matter and their lives matter, and I support their full inclusion into American society. But why do we have to remove the Confederate statues? They’re part of history. If we remove them, we’re simply rewriting history.”
This week, a Mississippi supervisor (elected official) voted not to remove the Confederate monument in Columbus because for him, it’s history. “We need to be reminded of some atrocity that happened. If we are not reminded about it, we are going to have a tendency to forget it and (the history) is going to repeat itself,” Republican representative Harry Sanders said.
Worse than his response is that of Georgia Republican candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, who said that black people should be proud to look at Confederate statues when they see them. “They’re part of our history. We should learn from our history, we don’t erase it. That doesn’t make me a racist because I say ‘leave the statue up there’. If I were black people today and I were to walk by one of those statues, I would be so proud because I’d say ‘look how far I have come in this country, look how far my people have, what they have overcome’,” Greene said in a nearly 10-minute video.
I want to address both of these terrible claims in this post, to point out the atrocity behind such statements.
If we don’t remember history, we’re doomed to repeat it
This statement is one made by Harry Sanders above with regard to why we should leave Confederate statues up. Unfortunately, his claim is true, but not with regard to this issue. The reason pertains to the fact that confederate statues have been up for the last 130 years or so. And in that time, we have repeated the mistakes of the past. Just as blacks were enslaved and considered to be “less than” in slavery days, blacks are still considered to be “less than” even now. This is easy to see when one looks at the fact that there are few blacks in administrative positions in this country. Even my mother, who was Ivy League-educated with a dual Accounting and Economics degree from Duke University was overlooked for a $100,000 manager’s position.
The company claimed that they wanted someone to receive the post within the local company, but then decided to give it to someone in another company location when my mom applied. She was likely the only one qualified for the job, and they surely weren’t going to give the admin job to an African-American woman. My mother also informed me that at the same job she worked, there were plenty of blacks on the production line with 4-year college degrees, but few college-educated blacks being given administrative positions. She did better than many of her African-American peers, but they don’t realize how tough it was to support 2 children when she married a man who turned out to deceive her and left her to raise those 2 children alone.
My mother wasn’t just someone who made good money; she gave money to her parents to help support them in their hardship. She supported her two children, me and my sister. On top of that, mom donated to Christian ministries, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and other organizations. I didn’t realize she donated to those organizations until she died. We received letters from organizations that wanted to thank us for mother’s contributions. That’s when we realized how big her heart was.
So, even though blacks have “equal rights,” they are still passed up for jobs that are given to white males. Guess who got the manager’s position at mom’s company? A white American male. Go figure.
Back to the claim. Sanders says that if we don’t see Confederate statues, we’ll forget the history. Well, we don’t see statues of the Native Americans every day, but we remember they were the first Americans. We don’t see statues of George Washington everywhere, but we’ve never forgotten he was the First President of the United States. We don’t see statues of Revolutionary War and World War 1 and 2 soldiers every day, but we’ve never forgotten those wars, either. Statues of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King aren’t everywhere in every place, yet, what African-American do you think has forgotten the Civil Rights leader who protested for African-American rights in this country? So, it doesn’t make sense that we have to see history in order to remember it. There are plenty of historical events that we do not see commemorated in statues that we still remember to this day.
African-Americans should “be proud” of Confederate statues because they reveal how far they’ve come in this country
Marjorie Taylor Greene says that if she were black she’d be proud of the Confederate statues because they’d remind her of how far blacks have come in this country. She says that every African-American should feel like this about the statues when they see them.
Unfortunately for her, Greene isn’t black and thus, cannot speak for blacks in this country and how they feel. The truth of the matter is that, when blacks see Confederate statues, contrary to Greene’s uneducated opinion, blacks feel afraid. They are reminded of the oppression of their ancestors. They are reminded of just what their people suffered and endured so that they can have the rights they do now. And they are sad because of what happened to their people. Confederate statues remind blacks of the torture, death, slavery, slave sales, and other forms of oppression their people suffered.
They are reminded that Rosa Parks had to fight for her seat on the bus because the society in which Rosa Parks lived didn’t see her as equal to a white man. When blacks in the 1960s wanted to use the bathroom, they had to go to the “colored” bathroom, while the “whites” had their own bathroom. Blacks were considered to be “other” than human. And in the early days of black voting rights, 1) only men were allowed to vote (black women still weren’t until 1920 with the 19th amendment). Even then, black males weren’t counted as a whole vote, but instead, three-fifths (3/5) of a vote.
Blacks recall the suffering of their ancestors, painful memories that make them sad, that make them angry at how their ancestors were treated less than human simply because of the color of their skin. And those Confederate statues are a form of what I call “historical PTSD.” A trauma victim from war has PTSD and often relives moments in the war in their heads. The same can be said for blacks when they see historical statues of Confederate generals and slaveowners who enslaved their people. Reliving the trauma doesn’t feel good. Just ask a rape victim how it feels for him or her to relive the circumstances of their rape. No one revels in reliving traumatic events and personal tragedies.
So, no, Marjorie Taylor Greene, blacks are not proud to look at those statues. In a perfect world, blacks would’ve never been enslaved and would never have had to see those statues in the first place. And looking at them every day reminds blacks that the world is still racist, still Confederate, still pro-slavery, even in different forms.
I’d like to live in a world where posts such as this would never have to be written. But, unfortunately, they must because, without them, such insensitive, callous, and racist statements as those made above are applauded rather than condemned.
There is no Confederate statue that any black is proud of. We’re ashamed of how our ancestors were treated. We’re ashamed that whites in the South thought it an appropriate response to revel in their ignorance and shame, that they thought it okay to enslave African-Americans for so long because they viewed them as less than people. There is nothing to be proud of when looking at those statues. Rather, they are everything that’s wrong with America — and when we remove them, we’ll not be “rewriting” history but rather, “re-righting” it. We’re not rewriting history, but rather restoring blacks to their rightful place, the place God assigned them. Blacks, like whites, are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-28) and deserve to be treated as such. And slavery and the Confederacy are historical events for museums, not icons to be cherished in a society that wants to affirm all persons, regardless of race.