I spent the good part of my week trying to decide how I feel about the proposed removal of confederate monuments. I was raised under their shadow, and they were touted as the good old days, back when modern day inconveniences and turmoil didn’t exist. An impressionist painting of perfection.
I grew up in a small Southern town. It had giant magnolias, columned front porches, and an annual spring pilgrimage where visitors toured antebellum houses amidst blooming azaeleas and sweeping hoop skirts.
It was all nostalgia and watercolor sunsets and giant oak silhouettes. It was the land of cotton where old times are not forgotten. I was a ten-year-old with a mad crush on Scarlett O’Hara, and it all looked so pretty to me. It felt pretty to me. It was pretty perfect to me.
Frankly, my dear, I was wrong as fuck.
‘cuz it ain’t just whistling dixie we’re talking about here, folks.
It’s hate wrapped up in a pretty plantation package with a taffeta bow. And yes, people love to paint that heritage and history soft-focus picture of the gallant South. Love to talk about those good old days of prosperity and tobacco and cotton fields as far as the eye can see. To look back to the days of fine gentlemen in gray who knew how to act like fine gentlemen and lovely ladies in lace who knew how to act like lovely ladies.
But the problem with soft focus is, it’s fuzzy, y’all. The clarity’s not there. Sure, it shows the barbecue parties at Twelve Oaks and grand, double staircases. It shows the gallant young men marching their way into battle to defend their women and their land. It shows the rolling, red clay hills newly plowed with cash crops aplenty. It shows all that highly-touted history and heritage.
Which is why they demand that these statues remain. They want to honor these outstanding generals who fought to protect the South’s genteel way of life. That genteel, civilized way of life where the fuzzy brush strokes sweep right past the whipping of the field hands and the raping of the house slaves and the selling of “darkie” children for the price of a spirited roan stallion. Where infant slave children were used as gator bait. Where an entire population (or at least those who survived) was raped, broken, beaten, maimed, and sold like chattel
Yet they continue their chant of history and heritage. Not hate. Never hate.
It’s history, yes. But it is also totally and absolutely hate.
So I say take them down. Take down all the Robert E Lees and Stonewall Jacksons, the Nathan Bedford Forrests and the Jefferson Davises. Put them in a museum somewhere.
They need to exist. They do. Because they need to remind us to never repeat such a heinous system of government again. Because that’s what it was: heinous.
Take them out of our town squares. Out of our city centers. Definitely out of our hearts.
Put in their place empathy, compassion, love.
And then put yourself in the place of descendants of slaves. Imagine yourself in their shoes, with whole histories of manacled and murdered ancestors lost and forgotten beneath that marbled pedestal of pride and privilege.
Imagine yourself a descendant of an untraceable ancestry, split, broken, drawn and quartered at the whim of the white man– husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, infants, siblings all lost. Where are the monuments to them? To their sacrifice? For sacrificed, they were — readily and continuously to maintain that sweet southern way of life.
No, the only monuments their descendants will see in nearly every southern square around, all honor the men who led the campaign to maintain the status quo — the dismemberment and death of their people.
If you still think those statues should remain where they are, I am ashamed to call you my neighbor. And you should be ashamed of yourself, too. It’s disgraceful.
And the South has seen enough disgrace. It disgraced itself when it seceded from the union. It disgraced itself with its Jim Crow laws. It disgraced itself with the incorporation of rebel flags into state flags.
For the love of all that is holy, let’s do something right this time around. Take the damn things down and put them somewhere where we’ll remember not to celebrate them, where we’ll remember that all that is gone with the wind needs to STAY gone with the wind.