It amazes me how the Civil War, which ended in 1865, can still have influence on us today. New Orleans only recently removed a monument built in the 19th century which was honoring the Crescent City White League, a group which attempted to overthrow the New Orleans government after the Civil War in the name of the disbanded Confederate States. The Washington Post reported that a small group of protesters even showed up and were outraged by the deconstruction of the monument.
Even in this day and age, there are still people who pride themselves on their southern heritage. They cling to the idea of the old south so much that they can’t stand to see a monument representative of a group who supported slavery come down. Police are supervising the removal of the monuments. Even though it ended about 150 years ago, the Civil War, unfortunately, is still dividing us in ways that are simply more subtle than they were back then.
There are plenty of articles online about how “Southern Pride is not white supremacy;” this particular headline is from the Chicago Tribune. Of course, it’s not; plenty of us in the Keene area identify as proud New Englanders and there shouldn’t be a double standard in that regard for people from the former confederate states. But these states need to realize that there is a stigma about them and the fact that they have a hard time tearing down confederate statues is not helping that stigma.
America is the most polarized that it has been in decades and the divides in our country are easier to see now than ever before in a time like this. We make generalizations about everyone these days. Stereotypes about the southern states are that they have a large racist population. The first step into reuniting the United States is to not make so many generalizations about certain areas or certain groups. We play into identity politics too often and we make our party loyalty too much of who we are.
One of the other statues in New Orleans that is set to be removed is one of Jefferson Davis. Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America. The Newnan Times-Herald, a newspaper in Newnan County, Georgia, described the statue of Davis as “a monument to white supremacists.” Davis was clearly pro-slavery when looking at his history. The decision to remove the statue was actually made back in 2015, but a lawsuit against that decision had delayed the removal until now.
The question is, why would anyone possibly oppose the removal of a statue of someone like this? The obvious answer is that they are pro-slavery. A quote in the Times-Picayune, a newspaper which serves the greater New Orleans area, from the four organizations behind the lawsuit stated they are “committed to protecting and preserving the historic landscape of New Orleans.”
I have no problem with the South remembering their history. In fact, we all should make an effort to never forget the dark side of America’s past so there’s no chance we let anything similar happen again. It’s for this reason that there are laws against Holocaust denial in Germany. They have realized that discussion of the events of the Holocaust is crucial to preventing similar events from happening again. We do discuss slavery and the Civil War a good amount over here and a healthy interest in our history is a good thing. But glorifying the wrong side of the Civil War with monuments of their leaders is, at the very least, insensitive in this day and age. Good call on removing the statues, New Orleans; I’m surprised it took you guys this long.
Elliot Weld can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org