After years of legal wrangling, New Orleans began the process of removing four Confederate era monuments. The first to go was the Liberty Place Monument. The monument was erected in 1891 to commemorate the failed uprising by the Crescent City White Leaguers. The post Civil War era battle was marked by the death of 13 members of the integrated Metropolitan police force, six bystanders and 16 White Leaguers. Days later President Ulysses Grant sent federal troops down to New Orleans to regain control of the city.
Despite the presence of the federal troops, the White Leaguers grew in strength post Reconstruction, eventually taking over the city and state governments. Though the monument was initially put up as a tribute to squashing the uprising, an inscription was added in 1932 saying “the Yankees withdrew federal troops and recognized White supremacy in the south after the uprising”. Those words stood until 1993 when they were eventually covered by a slab with a new inscription saying the monument honors Americans on both sides and should teach lessons for the future.
Three statues honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard are scheduled to come down next. New Orleans is city presently compromised of a majority of Black residents. A majority Black City Council voted for the monuments’ removal in 2015, and legal wranglings delayed their removal until now.
Dylann Roof killed nine Black parishoners in a church in 2015. Only days later did South Carolina finally remove the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds in the weeks after. Other southern cities are considering removing Confederate monuments and Confederate or state flags, like Mississippi’s which had the Confederacy emblem within. For those that attempt to argue that the flag and the Confederacy are somehow representative of heritage and not hate, I argue the two cannot be separated when the premise of that heritage and its foundation were in fact built on hate, racism and injustice.
This is an emotional topic on both sides. As much as I try I find it difficult to remain objective toward the proponents for keeping these flags and monuments honoring the Confederacy, I cannot. The argument that it represents part of your history means little by it self. History must be preserved. More importantly history must be told accurately and objectively. The stories surrounding the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee must be told, but “honoring” the movement and the men with flags and monuments is a disservice to any form of progress and inclusiveness in these geographic regions for the unabashedly racist and inhumane stance that the Confederacy fought to uphold and maintain.
Removing the flags and monuments are not removing history. History must always be told and preserved. Thats what why we have museums, libraries and schools. Their removal is important because we should not be honoring the institution and these men, with actual monuments somehow attesting to their greatness while ignoring the (how can I put this generously) flaws as devout racists and purveyors of slavery, white supremacy and social injustices.
Our evolution as a society… as people… must on both sides…strive toward empathy, but emotions can not cloud reason, and the removal of monuments honoring people on the wrong side of history, does not change the history, only our acceptance that their greatness was inherently flawed.
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