A monument in Charlotte, North Carolina commemorating a Confederate reunion, which took place in 1929, has been vandalized for the second time this summer. While the tag #BlackLivesMatter has been seen on other Confederate monuments the message left in this case relates directly to the Charleston murders. The names of all nine victims were spray painted on one side while the message, “‘The Cause For Which They Fought—The Cause of Slavery Was Wrong'” was left on the other.
It’s a lost cause to try to keep up with all of the thought provoking essays and editorials published over the past few weeks surrounding the national discussion about the history and legacy of the Confederacy. Last week The Washington Post published the thoughts of Thomas Sugrue, who is one of the most respected historians on the history of race, urban America and the civil rights movement in the North. I highly recommend Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North. Continue reading “Leave It To Southerners To Decide If It’s Dixie’s Fault”
A week later and I am still digesting Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book, Between the World and Me. I read it in two sittings and it knocked me right on my ass. I suspect that for most white readers his is a world that can barely be glimpsed. What does it mean to live in a black body that can be taken away in the most violent of ways with no consequences. Before reading this book I rarely thought about what it means to live in a white body in such visceral terms. That is my privilege as a white American. Continue reading “Confederate Iconography and the “Dream” of White America”
The call to remove Confederate monuments shows no signs of letting up. Many people who supported the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house grounds in Columbia have articulated positions holding the line on removing monuments. For some monuments offer educational opportunities and function as important reminders of the community’s collective past. Others have staked a position around the claim that Confederate soldier monuments can be understood apart from the broader cause of the Confederate nation. In other words, we can honor the memory of the soldier, along with his bravery and strong sense of duty, without having to deal with the baggage of race and slavery.
What follows ought not to be interpreted in support of the removal of Confederate soldier monuments nor should it be interpreted as an attempt to demonize the common soldier or anyone else for that matter. My position on these matters has been consistent. Continue reading “Why Threading the Needle Between Soldier and Cause is Doomed to Fail”
It is somewhat amusing to listen to people who have suddenly awoken to the fact that there are monuments to Confederate politicians, generals and common soldiers in their own communities. Many have chosen to voice their outrage by calling for monuments to be torn down and/or removed from public land. Since my recent trip to Europe I’ve become more sensitive to these concerns, though I still maintain that the preferred course ought to be the addition of signage that explains the relevant history of both the object of commemoration and the monument itself. More importantly, a number of communities have already moved to add to their memorial landscapes. Such is the case in Richmond, Virginia. Continue reading “Visualizing Charleston’s Memorial Landscape”