Narratives matter. Fundamentally, studying history is looking at various sources to determine a narrative that’s as close to truth as possible. In the United States, the battle of which narrative should be prioritized in our collective memories, towns and text books has always been a divisive political battle. Even worse, this political battle has made it so that being critical of our national story is considered a sign of ignorance or disrespect.
Of course, we are speaking mostly to the American Civil War and the legacy of those who fought in it — especially the pro-slavery, anti-United States members of the Confederate States of America.
Having Confederate ancestry is nothing to be proud of — it ruined North Carolina and the South for many generations. Even worse, Confederate soldiers worked to maintain one of the greatest blemishes on American history. The Civil War sparked the proliferation of white terrorism against African-American people, which continues on to this day.
The insistence on maintaining Confederate sympathies as a part of the white southern identity greatly reduces and can even negate many of the benefits of living in the South: music, hospitality and food.
Unless you think slavery and treason are okay, you should fully disavow what the Confederate project aimed to accomplish. Naysayers love to claim that history books say the war was about money. But history is about being critical — regurgitating tired sayings in a book without furthering an argument isn’t being critical. And even if the war was driven by money, then we would encourage people to look at how pervasive and economically lucrative slavery was in 1860. For the southern slave owner, keeping people in bondage was both an economic and white supremacy issue.
Everyone has their flaws, and those should be taught, but supporting slavery isn’t a mere flaw. Everything from the Bible to the writings of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison were available to a Southern person questioning the morality of slavery in 1860. Southerners who supported slavery knew better, but chose to be complicit in their amoral way of life.
The removal of statues doesn’t erase history. We highly doubt the Civil War will be taken out of New Orleans textbooks just because a few monuments have been removed. But doing so does stop Confederate glorification.
Until we as a society stop glorifying white supremacist traitors, this board has no choice but to continue to write in opposition to leaving Confederate monuments intact.
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