This past May, the Journal of Hate Studies released a special issue, Heritage and Hate. I was the editor on the issue, which included articles on the Confederate flag, remembering slavery in museums in the American South, and what to do with memorials that honor white supremacists (in Zimbabwe, not the US). The authors were incredibly patient as we put together this issue and got it in the hands of readers. (Most readers will have to be a little more patient. The issue is in the hands of subscribers and libraries, but the digital copy isn’t online yet. When it is, though, you can read it for free. In the meantime, if anyone wants a copy of any of the articles (Here’s the Table of Contents.), just let me know and I’ll happily send you a PDF.)
So, this issue of how we navigate Confederate memorials–I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now.
There is no defense of such monuments. We know that most of them were put up not to honor Civil War veterans but to reinforce white supremacy during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Era. Some have been put even more recently. Claims that “this is history” were naive last week; this week, they are offensive. If only it were history! But it’s not–the statues are about maintaining the right of whites to terrorize blacks, through slavery and the violence of Reconstruction, through legalized segregation, through imprisonment, through marches of white men carrying torches.
None of those honored are heroes. All of them led a revolt against the United States, one not rooted in freedom but in defense of white supremacy, of the right of white people to own blacks, and of an economic system that relied on the oppression of human beings. This is the “Southern heritage” that those men fought to defend, and it is shameful.
Monuments are not about history. They are about stories. These monuments are about the story of the Lost Cause and about the goodness of men who were evil. They don’t deserve to stand.
Citizens should not have to take these matters into their own hands. They should not have to look at their tax money being used to honor men who were willing to kill for white supremacy. We don’t need a public dialogue to discuss whether these men should be honored. Honoring them dishonors us. Honoring them is an act of violence to real people, right now, today.
Can we look to our elected leaders to remove them? In some places, yes, thank God.
What should those leaders do with the monuments? Dump them into the sea, where they cannot be reclaimed or turned into profit for white supremacists. We have a precedent for doing this with the bodies of those who commit mass violence and genocide.
But what about–
No, I do not care about them. Not when we have never paid the descendants of slaves for what they lost: lives, opportunities, justice. We don’t spend taxpayer money honoring men who took us into war while we say that we just can’t figure out how to to do right by the people they enslaved.
Let those who want Confederate soldiers honored do it on their own dime, on their own land. Private citizens are free to erect monuments to white supremacists on their own. If “heritage not hate” folks want to see them, I can direct them to white supremacists training grounds.
And if “heritage not hate” tourists find the idea of hanging out with folks who are training for a racial war, planning attacks on the US government, and laughing at racial terrorism a little bit distasteful… Well, I’m not sure what to tell you. Today’s white supremacist militias are just doing what your heroes did.
Above, white supremacists aren’t all polo shirt wearing college students upset about Fisher v. University of Texas. They’re also heavily armed racists itching for a racial war that will end with a white ethno state. Their major criticism of slavery is that it brought Africans to this continent. Basically, Confederate war heroes.