Thanks to Mayor Mitch Landrieu from New Orleans, 4 confederate era monuments (statues) have been removed from government buildings in the city.
This was not an easy thing for him to achieve. It’s been controversial. Some people were (and are still) angry and they fought with everything they had to leave the monuments where they stood – Prominently looking out over the city. In front of buildings that are meant to serve ALL the citizens of the city. These people, the ones who are mad about the statues being removed, hold on tight to their confederate identity. They wear shirts and get tattoos and they proudly display flags in their front yards. They will tell you that it’s not “Slavery Days Pride” but is instead “I’m From The South Pride.”
With regards to the monuments, people will say that it’s just history and you can’t change what happened and we should not forget and by removing them you are trying to rewrite history. I say, that confederate soldier monuments are not there to teach the full history. They are not there to commemorate the horrible things done by those men. Just as there is no statue of Hitler in front of The Reichstag to “remember the gas chambers”. The statues of the confederate soldiers were there to honor and celebrate what those men stood for. What they fought for. And what they fought for, was for life to stay the way it was at the time. They did not support and were not fighting for the freedom or rights of everyone. Mayor L put it this way, “…these men did not fight for the United States of America. They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.”
I live in an area where we see confederate flags on a regular basis. There are a few houses on the block where Jay attends school displaying confederate paraphernalia. I don’t have the ingrained history that black Americans have … And yet, even to me, it never feels good to see those flags. I have told Shaunie that if our boys were ever invited to a friends house and we pulled up and saw a confederate flag flying outside we would turn around and go home. I would have to explain to the family why we were unable to attend their get together.
Anyway, back to Mayor Landrieu … Earlier this month, he gave a speech on why he worked so hard to get the monuments removed and I don’t know if he could have done a better job of explaining why it was necessary. I have linked to the entire speech below but I have also pulled out a few lines that struck a chord with me. I hope you will take a moment to read. And as the mayor said, as a white person he “must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought. So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race.” So too, if you had never thought before of what the flags and/or monuments mean to black people, that’s just a result of your journey – but if after reading (or listening to) his speech you can’t see how these monuments are hurtful and your mind is unchanged then I guess there’s nothing else I can say.
From here on out, all the words are those of Mayor Landrieu. The highlights are mine.
New Orleans was America’s largest slave market, a port where HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of souls were bought, sold, and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor, of misery, of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined “separate but equal”; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. When people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well, what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.
And it immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REMEMBRANCE OF HISTORY AND REVERENCE OF IT.
After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.
A friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth-grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?
To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past.
The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.
And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans—or anyone else—to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd.
While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts; not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.
We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations.
Because we are one nation, NOT TWO; indivisible with liberty and justice FOR ALL, NOT SOME. We all are part of ONE nation, all pledging allegiance to ONE flag, the flag of the United States of America.
Instead of revering a four-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy, we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans, and set the tone for the next 300 years.
The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.
< Full Speech Here >