Many Confederate statues around the South have recently come under fire with the recent white nationalist attacks and marches that have happened. Many people are calling for the removal of all Confederate statues completely and destroying them while another group are calling for the statues to not be touched.
However, I have a somewhat different view of it. As a white southerner myself, I can understand why people would want these statues to remain: those statues are a part of our history. To remove them would be alike to remove our history from the town. I grew up in a town where it was common to see a confederate flag flying off the back of a guy’s truck. Not because he believed in the KKK or slavery or anything of the like, but because it is a common image that is used to describe the southern heritage a person has.
The quote by George Santayana is one that pops up into my mind the most: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If we remove all of these reminders of what has occurred and destroy them altogether, then how will we not make the same mistakes in the future?
And in Stone Mountain’s case, the Confederate Memorial depicts the figures of President Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. While these men did terrible things (one of them was our president, remember that) and left a bad lasting impression on America, that isn’t enough to take them down. However, when you think that Stone Mountain was the stomping grounds of the KKK, it makes more sense why you would want to get rid of a symbol such as that. However, Stone Mountain and the Memorial is a significant tourist attraction for Georgia that would be detrimental to Georgia’s tourist economy if we demolished the memorial, not to mention the cost of removing it from the site of the mountain. The memorial is extremely large (90 by 190 feet), is about 400 feet off the ground, and the deepest part of the figure is only 12 feet from the center of the mountain. Dude. That’s freaking huge. You really wanna remove that?
So, there is a plague that sits down the road from my house, proclaiming that this was the exact spot that Andrew Jackson marched, and the road is even named Jackson Trail Road, in honor of him and the trail he took. Should this statue be removed because it was Andrew Jackson who ordered the removal of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans from Georgia and other states? No, because it simply giving a reminder to those who pass that plaque of who walked through this path many, many years previously.
Yet, does this mean that all statues are worthy of being shown in public? No, it doesn’t. If we decide to remove all statutes that deal with slavery or the KKK, then we would be obligated to remove the statues of various American figures, like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, as they both owned slaves. The KKK did exist and we can’t ignore that fact by hiding or destroying every facet of it. There is a street in the town next to mine that everyone avoids (unless you live there) because it was the old KKK stomping grounds and sometimes, they still get together to have meetings in 2017. My dad has told me countless stories of when he was younger, seeing them hold meetings and being important figures in the town. They still exist, even if they aren’t doing an prominent action in the town anymore.
So what would be a compromise? Perhaps going through each and every statute dealing with the confederacy and deciding if it is worth having in the open? If it is not, put it in a local museum or, even better, gathering every statue that doesn’t pass inspections and placing them in a museum dedicated to fighting racism and white supremacists, to show that we aren’t holding with these disgusting beliefs again. Perhaps even near Stone Mountain in Georgia, the heart of the South? Whatever we decide to happen, we have to remember to preserve our history as well, lest we forget what has occurred in our past.