We Must Remove Shrines to White Supremacy from Public Property

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By Karen Anderson

The resurgence of white supremacy and the violence perpetrated by neo-Nazi terrorists in Charlottesville are painful reminders of how much work remains to challenge and defeat systems of hate and racial oppression in our nation.

As a Black woman living in a former slave state adorned with monuments to the Confederate cause, I believe that work requires us to confront our own history and ask: What message do we send when we chose to honor one part of history but not others?

The Confederacy sought to protect slavery, dissolve the Union, and preserve white supremacy. While Confederate armies ultimately failed to achieve those first two goals, the monuments erected in their memory years later under Jim Crow were and remain vile symbols of white supremacy and the terrorization of communities of color.

In my state of North Carolina, there are 90 different monuments to the Confederacy on public land — the second most of any state in the nation, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. They stand outside our state capitol and our public universities. They greet visitors to courthouses across the state. They are central fixtures of public parks.

This is land that is meant for all members of the public. Yet there are no monuments to many of our other ancestors — to those who were enslaved, to abolitionists, to pro-Union North Carolinians, to the Black soldiers who fought and died to defeat the Confederacy. And, as Professor Timothy Tyson notes, there are no monuments commemorating “the interracial Reconstruction government of the 1860s, which gave us the North Carolina Constitution we still try to live under.”

What we choose to represent and honor in these spaces matters. Shrines to white supremacy and racial violence denigrate my existence and that of millions of North Carolinians. When we enter a courthouse or visit our state capitol and are greeted by monuments to slavery and white supremacy, it sends a clear message that our government endorses the oppression and inequality that they represent. And by doing so, there is only one thing we can take away from it: We are less valued as citizens.

That’s why earlier this week, the ACLU of North Carolina called for these monuments to come down once and for all.

Our governor, Roy Cooper, echoed our call and joined those demanding for the monuments to be removed. But while cities like New Orleans and Baltimore have done just that, North Carolina’s monuments remain protected under a 2015 law barring their removal. That law too must go.

The events of the last week have made it clearer than ever that we must confront our full history, acknowledge the shameful message these statues send, and take action to remove them.

But the work to undo white supremacy cannot end there. From voter suppression and inequitable educational resources, to mass incarceration, the tools of Jim Crow are still being deployed to attack the rights of Black and brown people across the nation. We must live up to the principles of liberty and justice for all by removing monuments and shrines to white supremacy and rooting out racial injustice throughout the land.

Karen Anderson is the Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina



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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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16 thoughts on “We Must Remove Shrines to White Supremacy from Public Property”

  1. Tia Will

    Good morning Claire

    You are correct when you state that I, as a white woman, cannot share your experience as a black women…just as you cannot share mine. I hope that you will have time to read and reflect and comment  on this statement from Karen Anderson, another black woman who has eloquently expressed her perspective.

    What I find illustrative and heartening is that there is not race based consensus on this issue. I see this as evidence that race is not the sole determinant of our perspective on the world, but only one of many factors. This stands in direct contrast to the beliefs of white supremacists who believe that it is the color of our skin that should determine our worth and dictate our beliefs.

    This is a conversation that I feel needs to be occurring across the nation and  which I hope will lead to a richer understanding of the broad range of perspectives.

  2. Claire Benoit

    Hi Tia, Haha, I’m swearing myself off the internet for the weekend.

    This is very well written. Two points stick out to me most:

    “… are no monuments to many of our other ancestors — to those who were enslaved, to abolitionists, to pro-Union North Carolinians, to the Black soldiers who fought and died to defeat the Confederacy. And, as Professor Timothy Tyson notes, there are no monuments commemorating “the interracial Reconstruction government of the 1860s, which gave us the North Carolina Constitution we still try to live under.”

    &

    “From voter suppression and inequitable educational resources to mass incarceration..”

    One of my greater points with this is I feel it would have been a better move to add these necessary pieces to the monuments as they stand now. Change them from being individual tributes to being artistic memorandums of understanding. I like this because both blacks and the white Americans most prone to bigotry need this very badly… and on a much smaller scale – historical monuments are beautiful in spite of their original meanings… they can take on new meaning as their surroundings change imho.

    The second point stands out to me because these are the works worth fighting and dying for. These are worth the risks of riots and retaliations – although we should always seek methods that bypass those if possible. It bothers me that a gain so relatively insignificant and subjective has already caused 3 people to lose their lives. With Mississippi and Louisiana on the radar; I’m truly worried. Not because I am cowardly, but because there are other ways and this ultimately just isn’t worth it even if better options didn’t exist; but they do imho.

    I think if we could bring most those “bigots” to tears when they understand the depth of suffering mothers, fathers, and children just like them once endured – their minds will open with their hearts. It also hurts like the dickens to be underestimated all the time and I do believe if given the chance to be included and recognized as capable – many of these “bigots” would be eager to do just that.

    They may not be atheists or start sporting dreadlocks but I do believe they are very capable of being open hearted if gently & paiently guided. Their nature is the product of our history.

    And I also think it would help the healing process for a lot of black Americans to realize that the vast majority of their white neighbors; especially in these most racist towns are NOT direct descendants of any slave owners. They literally share nothing with them but the accidental color of their skin- which you and I agree is not very important… although I am occasionally obnoxious with my black credential when engaged in debate 🤣😬

    Offtopic: my goal for the end of this year is to become a more concise communicator. I’m an INTP and read that we are all long winded 😝

  3. Tia Will

    I am occasionally obnoxious with my black credential when engaged in debate 🤣😬

    Understood. I have been known to whisk out my blue collar, MD. or senior citizen credential depending on the circumstances and company !  Have a great weekend.

     

    1. Noreen Mazelis

      Yup, the Democrats supported slavery and, later, Jim Crow, as long as the South was the “Solid South” (for the Dems) — yes, I’m old enough to remember.

      1. Eric Gelber

        Noreen – Then you probably also remember that as northern liberals and blacks voted with the Democratic Party and supported civil rights, those southern Democratic segregationists left the party and became Republicans. So, they’re all yours now. Congratulations.

    1. Jerry Waszczuk

      Moderator . you better  do not censor me . I am paying 10 dollars every month to  read and write here .  If you remove something without word of explanation why you removed my post than I post again .

      [moderator] Remainder of post deleted. Word(s) of explanation: I removed your post because it is anti-Semitic nonsense.

  4. John Hobbs

    [moderator] Remainder of post deleted. Word(s) of explanation: I removed your post because it is anti-Semitic nonsense.”

    [moderator] comment removed.”

    Finally.

  5. Noreen Mazelis

    Let’s start with the “Black Lives Matter” banner, if the virtue addicts are serious. I note that none of the speakers at this “unity” event had any trouble standing on a stage with this racist outfit’s banner. I guess “racism” is in the eye of the beholder.

  6. Dave Hart

    These statues should never have been erected in the first place and it’s a shame it’s taken this long to recognize that.  Statues and monuments should be confined to the victims of institutions only.  Child laborers killed in factories, victims of the German holocaust, American slaves are examples of people from groups who are properly memorialized in bronze or stone.  Otherwise forget it.  The confederacy was dedicated to the enslavement and murder without punishment of people based on their skin color.  If a statue is okay for those people, it’s okay for Adolph Hitler to be memorialized in statues around Germany or even Israel because he is “part of their history”.  Stupid thing to say and a stupid thing to do.  That’s my ruling.

  7. Jerry Waszczuk

     
    LARRY DAVID SHOCKED TO LEARN HIS ANCESTOR WAS A CONFEDERATE SLAVE OWNER

    Bernie Sanders and Larry David are distant cousins. But there is a lot more where that came from.
    Even more shocking was the fact that Henrietta’s father, David’s great-great grandfather, Henry Bernstein, was one of only about 3,000 Jewish men to fight on the side of the Confederacy.

    http://www.msn.com/en-us/entertainment/celebrity/larry-david-shocked-to-learn-his-ancestor-was-a-confederate-slave-owner/ar-AArtx3b?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartandhp

     

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