I graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1993. Even then we questioned why any soldier, not to mention one abstracted from a war that divided the country in an effort to preserve the horrible institution of slavery, should be in such a position of honor for all to see.
The purpose of Confederate remembrance is to embrace those principles of white supremacy. This is true of Silent Sam and of other monuments that were erected in an attempt to revise history. Keeping them up does not help us remember our past, but instead creates a false memory in which racism didn’t shape our country.
This fake history prevents us from being able to understand our present, in which racism is clearly alive and well. Putting the statues up was an effort to erase history. Taking them down moves us one step closer to better understanding our past and hopefully making a better future.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said it much better than I ever could. Here are some excerpts of his speech about removing Confederate monuments in New Orleans:
“These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.
After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.”
“To literally put the confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past, it is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future.
History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.”
Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Silent_Sam_1913.jpg