I’ve been staring at a blank page for about 30 minutes now, figuring out how to start writing this article because I shouldn’t have to. Ideally, we’d be living in a world where I wouldn’t have to explain why America shouldn’t celebrate the Confederacy and why removing public displays doesn’t equal erasing history and white genocide.
But here we are, 15 days after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a Confederate monument has been put on display in Crenshaw County, Alabama.
The unveiling of the “Unknown Alabama Confederate Soldiers” monument was attended by 500 people, including re-enactors dressed in period clothing, members of the Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans and a few members of the right-wing militia group the Three Percenters, decked out in full-body armor and bearing guns “in case anything were to happen.”
I feel the need to emphasize that the unveiling was just 15 days after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people, killing one person and injuring 19 others.
I can’t even think of a comparison to make to emphasize what poor timing this decision was. David Coggins, who owns the land where the monument was unveiled, considered that and said, “This was planned several months ago…the monument was ordered last year, and it’s taken this long to get it in the ground and ready to unveil.”
Even if the fate of the universe somehow depended on the unveiling of this monument, I think he could’ve waited.
Just another 24 hours to contemplate whether this was really that good of an idea. At the very least, the thought of holding off on this should have crossed his mind at some point.
While the subject of race in America isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, recent events, such as Charlottesville, have revived conversations about white pride, historical preservation and free speech.
I’ve seen a lot of arguments lately that go along the lines of, “I’m not a Nazi myself, but aren’t they entitled to their right to free speech as well?” and sadly, those people are totally right.
Under the First Amendment, people like Chris Cantwell are perfectly able to march down the street and shout, “Blood and soil!” and, “Jews will not replace us!” and whatever anti-Semitic, racist slurs they can think of, and the government can’t do anything about it.
However, I have a quick history lesson: in Germany, under Strafgesetzbuch section 86a, the use of symbols “of unconstitutional organizations” such as the Third Reich are straight up banned unless it’s for educational purposes.
It’s also totally illegal to publicly display flags, uniforms, insignias, slogans and forms of greetings.
What’s the point I’m getting at here? Do I believe that the United States should enact similar laws to ban the usage of Confederate symbols? And that Germany has such laws in place because the country feels ashamed of their past and the United States should as well?
In short, yes.
The Confederacy stood for slavery first and foremost. You may recognize this as more or less the entire point of the Civil War.
You also may be aware of the fact that they lost that same war.
Those in support of unveiling monuments such as the one dedicated to the unknown Alabama Confederate soldiers say that it’s a way to honor those who served.
However, all it does is feed into the ignorance of those who believe that the Confederacy correlates to white pride and glorifies a horrible part of American history. It’s not something that should be commemorated and celebrated, but rather something we should use as a tool to learn from our past and ensure that it never happens again.
Isabella Manzo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org