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Confederate monuments should be removed, but not forgotten

The debate on Confederate statues and whether they should remain standing has raged across the United States after the protests in Charlottesville, Va. ended in violence. While some feel that the statues depict and preserve an important aspect of southern culture and history, they ultimately serve as a reminder of white supremacy and a war that was fought to preserve the enslavement of African Americans.

The Civil War is a part of American history. As a nation, the U.S. experienced and grew from the Civil War, and this is not something that should be forgotten. However, arguments that statues and flags in public areas are the best way to preserve this history, can be damaging to society.

Many of the statues in the South are of soldiers and war generals, put in place by an organization of white women named the Daughters of the Confederacy. According to the Washington Post, most of the monuments were erected between 1895 and 1914 at the start of World War I, in an attempt to depict the Southern cause for war in a positive light.

The Daughters of the Confederacy focused on honoring confederate generals and soldiers as well as justifying the Confederacy. The group achieved these goals by establishing monuments of those who fought to preserve slavery. While Jim Crow laws and violence swept through the United States, the monuments stood as a reminder to African Americans of white supremacy.

Just as these monuments were historically used as leverage for white power, the statutes are being used as rallying points for white supremacists today.

The white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally that took place in Charlottesville this August was planned to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. The removal of this Confederate statue also sparked a protest in May, and a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) rally in July.

While not everyone that supports confederate statues are white supremacists, hate groups are using the statues as rallying points to divide the country and create violence.  

Hate groups are also using President Donald Trump’s defense of these statues, paired with his obvious aversion of fully denouncing these groups and assigning blame, as justification to continue. Trump has even received praise from these groups. According to the New York Times, Trump has been complimented for his honesty and courage by white supremacist leaders, including former KKK grand wizard, David Duke.

History is studied, preserved and valued so that we can avoid past mistakes. However, our nation should decide not to glorify a part of American history that valued enslavement by having statues praising “heroes.” Instead, monuments should be moved to places of historical learning, such as museums or graveyards, and include correct context so that we can understand why we must move forward from the ideal of white supremacy, and work towards a time of true equality.

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