The current issue of Civil War Times magazine includes some brief thoughts from a group of scholars, plus the current commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, about what they believe should be done with Confederate monuments. It is also available online.
The group includes mainly academic and public historians, which is fine, but as far as I am concerned, we give too much authority to this narrow group. There is very little in this survey that you haven’t already heard ad nauseam. At this point we sound like a broken record and I am even willing to include myself in this group.
What unites all of the participants in the debate about Confederate memorials? The belief that “retain” or “remove” are only two options. But what about a third option?
I would like to propose that Confederate memorials should neither be retained nor removed: They should be destroyed, and their broken pieces left in situ.
On a scheduled day, a city government or university administration would invite citizens to approach a Confederate memorial, take up a cudgel, and swing away. The ruination of the memorial would be a group effort, a way for an entire community to convert a symbol of racism and white supremacy into a symbol of resistance against oppression.
Historians could put up a plaque next to the fragments, explaining the memorial’s history, from its dedication day to the moment of its obliteration. A series of photographs or a YouTube video could record the process of destruction. These textual explanations may be unnecessary, however. Ruins tend to convey their messages eloquently in and of themselves. In this case, the ruins of Confederate memorials in cities across the nation would suggest that while white supremacists have often made claims to power in American history, those who oppose them can, and will, fight back.
Now I don’t necessarily agree with everything stated here, but it is a perspective that we haven’t heard before. What do you think?