Caperton in Feministe:
Let’s talk about Confederate monuments. They’re going down. Some of them are, anyway. But they’re not going down without a fight from the heritage-not-hate devotees of the tributes to the fight to preserve slavery and white supremacy. New Orleans has taken down statues honoring generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and assorted vigilantes who worked to overthrow the city’s Reconstruction government.
…Let’s look away, for the moment, from the plight of people who are not real because they’re 14 feet tall and made of bronze. Let’s look at real, human people — for instance, the black citizens of and visitors to New Orleans who have to walk around every day amid bronze and stone monuments to the architects of atrocities against people who looked like them who were abused and murdered in the name of economics and white supremacy. And for that matter, let’s talk about real, human people across the South, black and white, who get 28 days of tribute to black history every year and 365 days of tribute to the foundations of the institutionalized white supremacy that required many of such heroics from oppressed black people in the first place. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave a speech to explain the relocation of Confederate monuments around the city, and it should be required reading/viewing. (Video and transcript are available at the link.) He addresses frankly the history of the Civil War and slavery in New Orleans, the origins of the statues that have been removed, and their impact on real, human people.
First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America; they fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. 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, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for.
And 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.