Confederate Statues Are Neither Aspirational Nor Insightful
A monument’s value comes from its representing the guidance of past generations.
Confederate statues have only inspired hate, even serving to fuel white supremacists. For instance, during riots in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2018 protesters wanting the statue of General Robert E. Lee removed from a public park clashed with white supremacists who called for it to remain in place. Other Confederate statues have been tagged with graffiti and even torn down during the latest Black Lives Matter protests. The world does not have public memorials to Hitler because a statue of him is not needed to learn from the atrocities committed. Statues of Hitler can only guide future generations toward hatred, and the same is true of Confederate monuments today. Memorials to the victims of those crimes, however, are essential. The pyramids, Duomo, and Notre Dame may have complicated histories, whether their involvement with an institution like the Catholic church or the possible use of slave labor. But their primary message is not one of hatred. What sets them apart from Confederate memorials is that they can be looked to for inspiration and lessons. In some sense, each site represents the best of what the culture that produced it has to offer. These Confederate statues are also not of any artistic significance. Many were not even made by Southern artists, nor do they reflect any kind of lived experience by many in the South—both Black and white —since they were largely, aggressively commissioned by wealthy members of social organizations.