As the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction earlier this year, it had many asking why we still have numerous Confederate monuments across the United States, especially in the southern states.
There are over 700 Confederate monuments that remain as statues and memorials today, this number does not include the 93 that were taken down earlier this year. After listening to a conversation hosted by Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art where Dread Scott and Antwaun Sargent discussed the meaning behind Confederate statues and where their place in society, if any at all, should stand today, I highly recommend this video everyone as well.
History often repeats itself which is why it remains imperative that we never forget our past. It is, after all, what has led us to where we are as a society today. There is enormous empathy that can be learned from understanding our pain and mistakes. The obvious issue pertaining to Confederate monuments is the praise they bring to Confederate soldiers thus overshadow the brutality and slavery the United States was founded on. One component Dread Scott touched upon was the idea of space. Confederate monuments do not create a safe space for all as it reminds many that before the 14th Amendment, Black men were considered as property, one of the main reasons as to why the Civil War began.
It’s inexplicable to think that a past as terrible as slavery is often forgotten by many or worse, not even taught in some American schools. When horrors of slavery aren’t automatically included in curriculum, in addition to the existence of Confederate monuments praising slaveholders, it’s evermore evident that in order to move on in the present, we need to accurately define what happened in our past rather than overlooking and glorifying men of racism and inhumanity.
A contrasting narrative takes place after the horror and the brutality seen during World War II in Hitler’s Germany. After the Nazi party was abolished, there was a deconstruction and reconstruction of changing the connotation behind Nazi monuments. In Germany, for example, one couldn’t find one single public monument that pays homage to “Chancellor Hitler.” Instead, he would be referenced informally as Adolf Hitler. In America, we have yet to come up with a similar reference to slaveholders. Those that support showcasing confederate soldiers as heroes and formidable leaders of society need to perceive otherwise, considering that the Confederacy faced defeat in the Civil War.
Understanding the meaning behind Confederate statues is a deep dive into the racism that still exists in our country. There is an issue in that someone with a lack of education on this nation’s past could look at Confederate monuments and not realize the hidden racism, since such monuments are often accompanied by lack of plaques or explanations. It seems that numerous Confederate monuments in the United States provide a false depiction of the Civil War – working to perpetuate racism today. These statues are absolutely part of the problem as to why Breonna Taylor’s killers weren’t charged for her murder, along with the many other Black women and men who have lost their lives to police brutality but have yet to receive justice.
We see that sort of narrative change in spaces, such as: museums, especially in the realm of female identified artists. There is an absence of art created by women in museums simply because female art cannot just be art. Museums tend to alter the narrative in these cases to fit within the desires of their donors and sponsors – it’s about what they want to hear rather than the full fact of the matter. It’s even more evident in the popularity of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” as opposed to Artemisia Gentilechis. Da Vinci fit the White male narrative that society so badly wants to perpetuate as the norm. One could argue that a similar approach is embedded in the presence of Confederate monuments, since cities purposely do not mention the negativity attached to infiltrate racism in our society. It is not a mistake, rather, an intentional decision to leave these monuments standing, which is why we need to take education into our own hands to truly comprehend the meaning behind them.
Nonetheless, it is important that whatever space we are a part of, we fight to disseminate the truth. The real truth, no matter what. While Dread Scott has a hate-hate relationship with the United States, many younger folks have faith that there could be something left salvaging. Regardless of who we are, it is important to try our hardest to fix the corruption in any space we enter.