On Monday of this week, at work we, delicately, talked about the Charlottesville statue rally, and didn’t talk about the murder of Hannah Graham.
One of my co-workers asked a question that I found to be incredibly thought provoking:
If all I care about is that actual statue, how do I protest for that?
And I think my answer was something to the tune of, “It’s too late, you can’t,”
And I’ve been thinking about his question and my answer ever since. While thinking about that I’ve had a couple right leaning friends and family that have let me know that they’ve argued for the statue and been called out as racists as a result. These are people that I know and love and/or respect, and I don’t think that they’re racists. Their call out for being racists likely happened on social media. As a quick side bar, this is the sort of behavior that has lead me to [delete my Facebook account] (which I recommend to everyone and not just because it might help you save your relationships with your friends and family).
When the Confederate statues debate was just starting to really warm up, well before it crystalized around Charlottesville, I told several people that I don’t have a strong opinion about the statues, but if it came up for a vote, I’d vote, tear them down, but that’d really be the maximum amount of effort that I’d put into it. After I had a couple people get called racists, I thought some more about the statues and the things that I’ve seen people say against people who are pro statue. Now, I have far stronger opinions.
(Quick note for people reading this in the future, by the time this got to Charlottesville, it wasn’t about the statue anymore. It hasn’t actually been about statues for some time now. It’s now about the right being anti-liberal and actual racists.)
Here’s how there are some things that are said, come off as racist. This, I’m writing as a sort of FYI for friends and family that are arguing for the statue.
Taking away the statues is erasing history!
It is not. The history books haven’t changed. The Civil War still happened and nobody is changing it and the people who were involved with it and the reasons that it happened. It’s a statue. I’ve never taken a history course and had to buy a statue. And, furthermore, the plaques under the statues certainly are not unbiased takes on historical events.
And to add to that, the statue is not nor ever was about remembering history, but celebrating history. If you are a white person and are not sure why black people are unhappy and white supremacists are rallying around this cause - it’s because of this. The existence of this (and other) statues is because their existence celebrates a time when white, landowning men owned black people.
Where does this stop?! George Washington and Thomas Jefferson statues will be torn down by liberals who are offended by everything next!
Look, if you’re irritated by liberals being offended by everything, you’re in fine company. I’m leftist on most things, and I am certain I have to hear about it way more than you do. If you’ve wanted liberals to just get tougher skin on some things for once, I’m probably with you as well.
But the argument about the slippery slope is a classic logical fallacy, and comparing Washington and Jefferson to General Lee because they were all slave owners is incorrect. The reason I make this argument is because George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were morally flawed, yet complicated people.
George Washington was the founding figure of our country, but owned slaved. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but founded this great nation.
You can order it how you’d like. Let’s get on to General Robert E. Lee:
Robert E. Lee owned slaves, but also fought for the right for him selves and all white Confederates to own slaves.
You see? Not a lot of complexity there.
General Robert E. Lee was a great man!
… [who lead the army of a traitorous country] for [the right to own slaves]. There is [nothing in his biography] that will overshadow this.
General Lee only led the Confederate Army because of his love of Virginia!
Virginia Ordinance of Secession
April 17, 1861
To Repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution:
The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention, on the 25th day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eight-eight, having declared that the powers granted them under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States.
Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the Ordinance adopted by the people of this State in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United State of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.
This Ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State, cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.
Done in Convention, in the city of Richmond, on the seventeenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia
JNO. L. EUBANK,
Sec’y of Convention.
Virginia’s declaration of succession included “the oppression of slaveholding states”. Whatever reasons that someone has told you that Southern states quit the Union are invalid, at least in reference to Virginia. They quit because the federal United States government was oppressing their ability to own other human beings. To General Robert E. Lee there would have been no secret second reason for his beloved Virginia to quit the Union. It was slaves.
But he was just fighting for states’ rights!
This unqualified argument holds absolutely no water, unless it’s a state’s right to own slaves. But let’s pretend that it does. Let’s pretend that General Robert E. Lee fought against the United States of America for the nebulous idea of “states’ rights”. If you believe that and you do not or never held citizenship in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you are invalidating your own arguments. If you don’t live here in Virginia - your opinion about this statue doesn’t matter. If the very liberal populous of Charlottesville, Virginia wants to stuff the monument to General Robert E. Lee into a wooden crate and put it in the back of a closet somewhere, that’s their business - according to you.
Let’s not forget that the lawfully elected city council of Charlottesville made decisions about the fate of Charlottesville’s statue.
That statue has been there since the Civil War.
It was commissioned over a half a century after the end of the Civil War during Jim Crowe era South.
These statues represent my heritage as a Southerner
I’ll admit, I don’t get the Southern pride thing. I’m from Ohio and any pride about where we are from is pretty casual. But if you’re proud of being from the South, that’s great. I don’t get it but, good for you. If you claim this under the banner of the Confederacy, I’d like to draw your attention to two things:
- Everyone out west or in the north that isn’t a racist, hears “Confederacy” and thinks of slavery. I’d encourage you to pick a different title.
- There were two kinds of people invested in the Civil War. Rich white, landowning men who wanted to continue to have the right to own other human beings, and poor white people who went off to fight for the rights of the rich to continue to get rich off of slave labor. If your ancestors were involved in the Confederate effort during the Civil War, neither of those are anything to be proud of.
There were people that were at the rally just for the statue, they weren’t white supremacists or Nazis!
That cannot be true. If you are an intelligent human being that loves having General Robert E. Lee’s statue up, and you go to a rally to defend it and some how miss all of the press about white supremacists being there, and you arrive and see all the swastikas and still hang around? Impossible.
In conclusion to all of this, I am no longer mildly against the statues, I’m incredibly against the statues. Why? Because they celebrate the leaders of a traitorous effort to divide my home country over the legal right to own other human beings running fully contrary to any ideas of freedom or liberty. I write all of this in the hopes that friends and family that are perplexed as to why they are being called racists on social media for supporting a statue understand that because they support a statue they are supporting racist ideals.
As a sort of post script, the people who showed up to the Charlottesville rally this past weekend under the swastika, giving the Nazi salute, I have to say that this is the first time in my life that I’ve questioned the First Amendment. This is hard for me to actually recognize myself, as someone who has preached for full transparency of government, libertarian ideals in many arenas, and even there have been days that I might have accepted the descriptor of anarchist. The thing that I’ve struggled with is that when the Nazi ideals alighted on German brains, American men swore, with not moral compunction, to put American bullets through those skulls. When those ideals alight on American brains, the Bill of Rights gives more protection than those skulls. There is a cultural discrepancy there. But at the end of the day, I agree that I’m [lucky that I live in a country that gives everyone every right to say horrible things].