Why Confederate Statues Should Not Be Torn Down
Photo: Gerry Broome/The Associated Press
Last Monday, over 200 University of North Carolina Chapel Hill students toppled a confederate statue on their campus. The statue, titled “Silent Sam” was erected in 1913 to honor the 300 alumni who served in the confederate army. In a mob-like fashion, students kicked and stomped on the statue after it was torn down. Three individuals were recently charged with misdemeanors in connection to the event.
It would be factually inaccurate to say that the statue is not tied to white supremacy and racism. At the statue’s dedication over 100 years ago, Julian Carr, a local KKK member who helped dedicate the statue stated:
“There are no words that I have been able to find in the vocabulary of the English language that fittingly express my feelings in this presence of this occasion” “...I trust I may be pardoned for one allusion… I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with a double-barrel shotgun under my head.”
The statue is obviously related to vile racism, but this does not give validity to tearing it down in a mob-like fashion. The laws of this country and the checks and balances provided erase any reason or need for acting uncivilized in order to make a point, or to destroy property.
One can make the case, although rather weak, to vote on the removal of the statue diplomatically— but resorting to mob rule is completely unacceptable. Why let a statue have so much power over you that its mere presence causes you to react violently?
On this issue, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated: "I'm a firm believer in 'keep your history before you.' And so I don't actually want to rename things that were named for slave owners. I want us to have to look at the names and recognize what they did, and be able to tell our kids what they did and for them to have a sense of their own history. When you start wiping out your history, sanitizing your history to make you feel better, it's a bad thing.”
People should be forced to look at confederate statues, so they never forget how far America has come in terms of healing our past divisions. The second we start erasing history is the second we start allowing it to repeat itself.
The biggest problem with tearing down statues is the precedent it sets. It greenlights the tearing down of anything that offends you, that you personally deem offensive. Who is to say that this will not extend to statues of other historical figures such as our founding fathers?
Do not think this viewpoint is far-fetched— students at the University of Virginia last year covered a Thomas Jefferson statue in all black, posting a sign stating "TJ is a racist and rapist".
The disdain people hold of our founding fathers is condemnable. The story of slavery—an egregious one at that— was a part of both American and world history centuries ago. This, of course, does not excuse our founders' actions as it pertains to this vile institution. That being said, we ought to judge these men on the overall legacies they left behind, and not solely on their sins and wrongdoings.
Without our founders like Thomas Jefferson, this country would not be the way it is today. As a matter of fact, we were able to condemn and outlaw slavery, because our founders themselves drafted an amendment process into our constitution.
Without them, we would not have outlawed slavery and segregation as easily as we did. The very reason radicals are able to protest the founding fathers is because of the First Amendment acknowledging our inalienable right to free speech.
The radical left argues that the need to tear down confederate statues is comparable to individuals in Germany and other countries removing statues of Hitler, or other totalitarian dictators. Making this point is extremely dangerous as they are conflating repressive, dictatorial regimes— where millions of innocent civilians died under the hands of those governments— with America's representative democracy.
America was the leading force behind denazification. America was the leading force of liberating those civilians that were continuously murdered and oppressed.
In the U.S, we have a redress of grievances— also known as the inalienable right to petition— available through our democratic process. The people under the rule of countries such as Nazi Germany had no such thing. Tearing down statues of dictators represents the toppling of a tyrannical and oppressive regime.
We simply cannot conflate the two situations, as it is dishonest and inaccurate.
Americans ought to establish a simple rule: Let’s not tear down statues, and let us remember and acknowledge our history— not only through textbooks and museums.
Keyden Smith-Herold is the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Analytical, (dailyanalytical.com) a brand new publication.