Confederate Statues: Heritage or Hate?

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Confederate Statues: Heritage or Hate?

Avi Kister

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On August 12th in Charlottesville Virginia, white supremacists gathered in a “Unite the Right” rally, in order to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. When counter protestors arrived, white supremacist James Alex Fields got into his car and plowed through the crowd of counter protesters, injuring 19 and killing 1. This act of terror has shocked the country and has sparked debates about the legitimacy of Confederate Statues and Memorials, and whether they should be kept up or taken down, as has been done in numerous states and cities.

Confederate statues and monuments, depict prominent figures in the short lived Confederate States of America that seceded from the Union, sparking the bitter Civil War between 1861 and 1865. These prominent characters often include people such as Roger Taney, who ruled against the Dred Scott decision and believed that slaves were inferior and had no legal rights. Other statues depict Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate Army, which the USA, under President Abraham Lincoln, defeated, and Stonewall Jackson who was one of the fiercest lieutenant generals of the Confederate Army, and many more.

Aside from the small number of Neo Nazis and alt-right members, many Americans, particularly in the South, see these statues not as a source of racial superiority over slaves or African Americans, but rather as a source of Southern Pride. Other people view them as being important markers of American history, and that the nation ought to keep them in order to preserve our history.

The issue with this is that many people, especially African Americans, the victims of the slavery of the South, view these statues with hatred and fear, as the people that are being honored in the statues of public parks and cities, literally enslaved their ancestors and believed that the white race was superior to all others.

While it is one thing to read about the racist actions and beliefs of the people of the Confederacy, it makes a huge difference to actually memorialize and honor these very same oppressors. After all, how would we as Jews feel if we lived in Germany and had to go walking by a statue of Adolf Hitler, who murdered 6 million Jews? While this analogy certainly exaggerates the matter, we nonetheless can get a better understanding of the pain and tenderness of such an issue.

So where do we draw the line? Do Confederate statues stand as a solemn reminder of the past, or do they intimidate? Do they belong in parks and cities or should they be put in museums or destroyed?

One of the key components of this debate is the fact that many of the existing Confederate Statues were actually not put up right after the Civil War nor anytime near the 1860’s. Rather a large portion of the statues were actually put up during the Civil Rights Movements of the 1950’s and 60’s in predominantly African American neighborhoods of the South in order to serve as symbols of intimidation to the residents to show the white man’s superiority over others.

This is where the line must be drawn. While some of the Confederate statues and monuments simply were created as basic war memorials for Confederate Soldiers, or for the honoring and memorial of a movement that mobilized nearly half the states of America, many were actually created solely for the purpose of racial segregation and intimidation. Therefore it is of my personal opinion, that those statues that were put up during the 1950’s and 60’s should be taken down since they do not at all serve to remember our ancestors, but rather as a symbol of oppressive tyranny.


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