Recent Right marchers wielding tiki torches and shouting racial

Recent events in Virginia, specifically Charlottesville, have sparked the realization of underlying tones of racism throughout the country. Public high schools, parks, even libraries have been named after Confederate generals and soldiers following the end of the Civil War. Despite the defeat of the South, statues memorializing the events of the war erected all across America honoring Confederate members of the South. As years continue to pass, the statues remain undisturbed in the wake of social justice and civil rights movements. It provokes a series of questions. What do these statues truly represent? Does it reflect thoughts and morals of today’s society? If not, what needs to be done? In an effort to protect Confederate monuments, white supremacists assembled a rally they called Unite the Right in which they marched from August 11th to August 12th of 2017. This protest attracted controversial social groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, as well as their group leaders David Duke and Richard Spencer. Social groups which represent racism and white supremacy striving to protect these statues should allow the original intent of these monuments to become evident. White nationalists continue to insist that these dedications to the Confederate army represent heritage, not hate. However, the violence that took place during the Unite the Right rally proves otherwise. Videos were recorded and posted online of Unite the Right marchers wielding tiki torches and shouting racial slurs at counter-protesters, resembling a riot. One death and thirty-four injuries were the end result of the actions of just one (yes, just one) white nationalist. The extent to which the right-wing radicals have gone in order to openly discriminate against people of differing opinions regarding the statues demonstrates the convolution of intent for the memorials. Whether or not the original intent may have been to stand as a historical reminder of our past mistakes is irrelevant, what matters now is the interpretation by today’s society. Author Karen L. Cox expresses in her article, “Why Confederate Monuments Must Fall”, the damage these monuments have caused thus far. “…the Lee monument and others like it have assisted the cause of white supremacy and the deadly violence that has accompanied it.” (Cox, par. 12). Remembering the cause and effects of the Civil War is not synonymous with actively displaying statues that represent hatred and bigotry. Scraps of metal may be lost, but the history and lessons learned will never be forgotten. Antithetically, John Daniel Davidson of “Why We Should Keep Confederate Monuments Right Where They Are”, argues that Confederate memorials should be preserved because they were built in honor of the veterans who died serving in the Civil War. Additionally, Davidson confronts those who oppose the monuments for not seeing it in the right light. He maintains that these statues represent a “cautionary tale”, from which America should learn. Davidson also redundantly refers to the democratic view on the issue as iconoclastic, which seems quite the problematic approach to address the controversy, especially considering that the belief in question was founded on the backs of slaves. He even goes on to provoke the left-wing activists by saying, “But the iconoclasm on display now is about more than anathematizing the Confederacy or scoring cheap political points against hapless Republicans. It’s part of the Left’s overarching critique of American constitutionalism, the goal of which is to overthrow that order…” (Davidson, par. 14). Here, Davidson fails to grasp the real reason liberals are offended by the monuments. It is not about scoring political points or spiting the republican party. It is solely based upon removing offensive and unnecessary landmarks built to memorialize the attempt to preserve slavery during the Civil War. There is a reason the Confederate flag is no longer flown alongside the U.S. flag. Sarah Vowell presents a middle ground for this issue, having a clear perspective on both sides. Descending from both Cherokee Indians as well as a Confederate soldier, she understands the views of both the oppressed and the oppressor. Vowell criticizes the left-wing argument by bringing light to a similar controversy, that of Christopher Colombus. In the article, she scrutinizes those in favor of demolishing Confederate monuments for not exuding the same frustration or demand to demolish any Colombus monuments, whom she later refers to a, “navigationally challenged slavemonger”(Vowell, par. 11). Although Christopher Colombus did not incite a war within the country, he is known as one of the very first slave owners/traders. Despite his statues representing slavery and racism, people of today’s society are not actively inflamed about the removal of his statues like they are in regards to Confederate statues. Vowell poses the question: why is one act of slavery okay, but the other is not? She exposes the hypocrisy that takes place by excusing the actions of Colombus but not that of the Confederates. Counterintuitively, though, Vowell specifies that what the right-wings fail to see is that neither Colombus nor Confederate statues represent a historical caution or lesson learned. They are simply just offensive. The action that needs to be taken is the permanent removal of public Confederate monuments. No matter which way it is spun, the statues ultimately represent the bigotry, xenophobia, and oppression that took place before and during the Civil War. There is no need to be continuously reminded of the past, when the U.S. has made so many progressions throughout the years. The Civil War, and slavery in general, is a stain on American history. It is baffling that in 2017 there is still a debate as to whether or not it is necessary to memorialize racism. There is absolutely no need to praise any generals, soldiers, or battles of the war. Although the Civil War needs to be remembered, it is not an aspect of history that needs to celebrated or publicly appreciated. Artifacts can be placed in a museum for controlled educational purposes, otherwise the statues are no longer necessary. As Karen L. Cox says in her passage, these artifacts will be gone but they shall not be forgotten.

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