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Letter: Removing monuments is not rewriting history

Removing monuments is not rewriting history

It’s easy for a casual observer to dismiss Confederate statues as much ado about nothing. But it’s not nothing.

Do the Germans erect statues of Rommel, Goering, Hitler? Why not? How will the German people ever know their own history without erecting statues celebrating Hitler? Somehow they manage.

It’s worth considering that these statues were not erected closely after the Civil War. No, most were erected by KKK and Jim Crow white supremacist organizations during the lynching years of the 1920s and the anti-civil rights backlash years of the 1950s and 1960s. They were erected specifically as a statement about the “good old days,” and that statement was in no small part directed to the oppressed: “Know your place.”

It also bears acknowledgement that not all Southerners were white. The population of Mississippi was 55 percent slave, 45 percent free in 1860. South Carolina was 57 percent slave, 43 percent free; Florida, 44 percent slave; Georgia, 44 percent slave; Alabama, 45 percent slave; Louisiana, 47 percent slave. Nearly half of the population of the South was enslaved.

If “history” is the reason for those statues, then why don’t we find abundant statues throughout the South celebrating the struggle of the slaves and their descendants? Because that’s not the tenor of history white Southerners care to face, that’s why.

If you were descended from those who were enslaved, instead of hailing from the skin complexion of the enslavers, then it would rankle you, too, every time you went to the courthouse, to see symbols of oppression and enslavement flaunted as your proud “heritage,” particularly given Jim Crow’s history.

Those “heroes” were traitors who rebelled against this nation in order to preserve slavery. That is not to be elevated to idol worship in the public square.

As the great Southern writer William Faulkner observed: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Robert F. Biniszkiewicz

Buffalo

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