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Blacks oppose monuments to the seditious Confederacy

Melvin B. Miller | 5/17/2017, 10:56 a.m.
From the black perspective monuments to Confederate generals stand for white supremacy. It is absurd for white protesters to expect ...
“They just want you to believe that white supremacy matters.” Photo by Dan Drew

A common practice in many communities is for the elders to be afforded special status. Those who have lived long enough to become knowledgeable and wise are considered to be significant assets to their fellow citizens, although their significance is often overrated. Those whose achievements are considered to be extraordinary are sometimes honored with a monument or immortalized by naming a building in remembrance. But what to do when the tide of history changes and the heroes of old are out of favor? This problem now confronts the New Orleans supporters of the Confederacy.

Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans issued an ordinance in December 2015 calling for the removal of four monuments in the city that relate to the Civil War and the Confederacy. A monument commemorating the violent opposition in 1874 by white residents who were against reconstruction and a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis have already been removed. Workers had to wear flak jacket as protection against violent opponents.

Still to be removed are the following Confederate statues: P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee, both Confederate generals. Contractors needed to perform the work have been threatened. Supporters of the Confederacy have gathered in New Orleans to obstruct removal of the remaining symbols.

An estimated 61 percent of the population of New Orleans is black. From the black perspective these monuments stand for white supremacy. The major objective of the Civil War was to enable the South to continue slavery and treat blacks essentially as farm equipment. It is absurd for white protesters to expect that blacks, who are in the majority, would continue to tolerate the existence of the symbols of their oppression and disenfranchisement.

Equally disturbing is that there are still so many who do not understand that slavery is immoral and that their ancestors who precipitated the Civil War were wrong. They are undeserving of historical adulation. When one considers the loss of life in that war, and the number of physical disabilities and the destruction of families, officers from the Confederacy are responsible for a human carnage that would make mass murderers seem tame by comparison. There were 204,100 battle deaths.

Battles to protect the monuments to Confederate generals also occur in other cities. There has been a political conflict in Selma, Alabama for the dedication of a statue to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was found guilty of atrocities. In the Battle of Fort Pillow, Forrest’s unit massacred 200 Union soldiers, many of whom were escaped slaves. A white group called the Friends of Forrest have lobbied to establish a monument to Forrest in Selma, which is 80 percent black.

One of Forrest’s less successful assignments was to defend the Selma fortifications essential to supplying Confederate forces. Consequently there is little military reason to honor Forrest in Selma. But perhaps his recognition is based upon the fact that in 1866 he became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Indeed, there is every reason for African Americans to believe that efforts to preserve the public’s memory of the heroes of the Confederacy are to sustain the notion of white supremacy.