I welcome the changes announced yesterday by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. Relocate the Confederate flags to a less prominent location in the park. Build a state-of-the-art museum/educational center to highlight the complicated history of the monument as a Lost Cause symbol, rallying place for the Ku Klux Klan, and symbol of resistance against civil rights.
While these changes are all welcome it is important to keep in mind that they will not defuse the fundamental problem that these monuments pose for many Americans. The past six years has exposed what many people have long understood. Confederate monuments have long been perceived, especially by African Americans, as symbols of racism and oppression.
The most recent wave of monument removals going back to 2015 have taken place in the shadow of Dylann Roof and the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Since the police murder of George Floyd, on this day in 2020, just under 100 Confederate monuments have been removed or relocated.
The changes coming to Stone Mountain are only stop gap measures. A new museum exhibit will showcase a story of how these monuments have helped to enshrine a Lost Cause memory of the war that, in turn, reinforced white supremacy during the Jim Crow era and beyond. The museum’s interpretation will itself work to rally even more people behind finding a way to remove the sculpture from the side of the mountain.
Confederate monuments have become and, arguably, have always been political battlegrounds. The trend over the past few years couldn’t be clearer. These monuments will continue to be removed. It certainly can’t be denied that Stone Mountain monument is the most intractable of them all given its sheer size.
But its ultimate fate has been determined. It’s simply a matter of time.