Charlottesville's Confederate Statues Have Come Down — But What About The Rest?

by Elizabeth Broadbent
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Almost four long years after a “Unite the Right” rally that ended in one death, the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson have been removed from Charlottesville, Virginia. Kick down that particular roadblock on memory lane — four years of The Orange One’s blatant white supremacy may have helped you forget, America, or maybe you never wanted to remember in the first place. Recap: the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the Confederate statues. White people across Virginia lost their collective shit, because Heritage Not Hate (code for: Black Erasure), and neo-Nazi scum staged a rally full of vitriol and swastikas. One moral invertebrate drove his car through a group of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others.

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Four years later, they’ve just removed those Confederate statues. After the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, #BlackLivesMatter, #SayTheirName, all these people, and all these stories, it’s taken four years to remove the statues. We’ve seen Black Lives Matter protests across the nation. We’ve seen a teenager win a Pulitzer for filming a Black man’s murder. We’ve seen white supremacists take over the Capitol building. This is the highlight reel. And yet those statues still stood.

What the fuck took them so long? Two months after the rally, a circuit court judge ruled that their removal violated a Virginia state law forbidding the removal of “memorials and monuments to past wars.” In April, the Virginia State Supreme Court overturned that ruling — the law was passed in 1997, and since the Confederate statues went up in the 1920s, it didn’t apply to them.

No one thought to pull those statues down in the middle of the night? Where’s my anti-fa at?

Confederate Statues Still Stand Across The South

This summer, I drove my sons down Monument Avenue in Richmond. You know it, though you might not know you do.

The City of Richmond has removed the Jefferson Davis and Jackson statues. They have washed their plinths. But the words stand out faintly, readable in their rage.

Robert E. Lee stands. No less than Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has called for the statue’s removal, but the State Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments about it from at least two lawsuits. Lee is not #HeritageNotHate. Lee supported slavery: he thought it was an evil for whites, but a necessity for Blacks. He was brutal to his slaves, breaking up every single family he owned but one, some of whom had been together since Washington’s time, and even earlier. He had slaves whipped, decided it wasn’t enough, and told overseers to pour brine on their torn backs.

Yet he has statues in his likeness.

Bring it down to real life. You have Black friends. Imagine their faces. These men fought, fought and died on the battlefield, for the right to own them and people who look like them. Really, really think about that. Are you enraged? If you’re not enraged, you’re not thinking. Or you DGAF about your so-called Black “friends.”

These men have monuments.

There’s a name for what men like Lee, Jackson, Davis, and other Confederate generals fought for. We don’t use that word for slavery in America. Instead we fight about teaching critical race theory, a dog-whistle for the right.

We don’t call slavery what it really was. There’s a reason they pull out swastikas at white supremacy rallies.

Confederate statues are not monuments to a glorious Lost Cause. They are monuments to genocide.

Let’s Talk About Genocide

Kerri Smilie has an important Facebook post about visiting Germany and Confederate statues: “Know what we didn’t see? A single freakin’ statue of a Nazi.”

Now imagine those Confederate statues. Lee had brine poured on his slaves’ backs, remember? Stonewall Jackson purchased an orphaned four-year-old. Davis “theorized that Blacks were divinely created for servitude.” Nathan Bedford Forrest got rich in the slave trade. The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Hamilton Stephens, never married or had kids — but he raped his slave Eliza and had children with her.

These people have monuments across the American South. So too do the “Confederate defenders” memorialized at Charleston’s Battery Park. Why are these Confederate statues still standing? Why haven’t we pulled them down with ropes and chains?

From 1500-1900, 10-15 million Africans were “forcibly transported” across the Atlantic. This does not account for the staggering quantity of murders, rapes, and brutalities suffered by their descendants once they arrived in the New World. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 25% of the people on slave ships did not survive their nightmarish conditions.

Look Around: Confederates Are Everywhere

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The Washington Post via Getty Im

Go look at your Statehouse, Southerners. See those Confederate statues? Look at your parks. You are seeing monuments to genocide. Look at your street names. Look at your colleges: Washington and Lee — yes, that Lee. Look at your high schools. One of my best friends attended Jefferson Davis High School. There’s a Stonewall Jackson High School in Virginia. Two schools in Tennessee are named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general who founded the KKK. He has statues in Memphis and Nashville; they are currently attempting to remove his bust in the Tennessee state capitol. I only Googled two generals.

They will not melt down that bust for scrap. They plan to stick it in a museum. Charlottesville has had ten organizations express interest in taking their monuments to genocide. The “Confederate flag” (really the flag of The Army of Northern Virginia) which once flew over the South Carolina Statehouse, removed only after the racially-motivated massacre of nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, stands in the South Carolina State Museum. And when we do remove these Confederate statues and memorials, we are enshrining them.

Are you enraged yet?

The Charlottesville statues have finally come down. But so many others still stand. They don’t embody a Lost Cause. Don’t sigh over some “Gone with the Wind” bullshit. Confederate statues glorify hatred. They glorify white supremacy. They glorify white privilege and the death of millions of Black slaves, people those men fought for the right to own.

Remove the eyesores that glorify evil.

Tear them down.