Confederate monuments: A call for local action

Once again, the NC legislature, hoping to stir up a few votes for hate-mongers, passed a bill requiring legislative approval for permanent removal of any "monument, memorial, plaque, statue, marker, or display of a permanent character that commemorates an event, a person, or military service that is part of North Carolina's history" on public property. The bill goes to McCrory for his signature.

The bill, as usual, is a sweeping document that interferes in the local affairs of communities - towns, cities and counties will have to get approval for removing locally owned monuments from the state legislature, politicizing a process at the state level that should be left under local control.

I have a suggestion, both for communities tired of the legislature's interference in local affairs and for those in the community that want to see monuments to slavery, the Confederacy and racism gone.

The law says nothing about covering monuments or markers. Project images or cover them with cloths or other coverings with images the horrendous abuses of slavery and police brutality here in NC.

"We should embrace history, not forget it," [Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford] said. "We have to preserve history, even the bad parts, to learn from it and grow from it."

It's up to local community leaders and artists to provide that context - even the bad parts. And using NC's own history of minority oppression, rather than quick graffiti "tags" of "Black Lives Matter", would make a strong statement about the history that everyone in the state must confront.

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Strong and barely controllable emotion

"I have a suggestion, both for communities tired of the legislature's interference in local affairs and for those in the community that want to see monuments to slavery, the Confederacy and racism gone."

"It's up to local community leaders and artists to provide that context - even the bad parts. And using NC's own history of minority oppression, rather than quick graffiti "tags" of "Black Lives Matter", would make a strong statement about the history that everyone in the state must confront."

That's a pretty broad extinguish of both history and legacy. The decision of North Carolina to join the Confederacy was contradictory.......

"North Carolina was a picture of contrasts. In the Coastal Plain, it was a plantation state with a long history of slavery. However, there were no plantations and few slaves in the mountainous western part of the state. These differing perspectives show in the fraught election of 1860 and its aftermath. North Carolina's electoral votes went to Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, an adamant supporter of slavery who hoped to extend the "peculiar institution" to the United States' western territories, rather than to the Constitutional Union candidate, John Bell, who carried much of the upper South. Yet North Carolina (in marked contrast to most of the states that Breckinridge carried) was reluctant to secede from the Union when it became clear that Republican Abraham Lincoln had won the presidential election. In fact, North Carolina did not secede until May 20, 1861, after the fall of Fort Sumter and the secession of the Upper South's bellwether, Virginia.

Some white North Carolinians, especially yeoman farmers who owned few or no slaves, felt ambivalently about the Confederacy; draft-dodging, desertion, and tax evasion were common during the Civil War years, especially in the Union-friendly western part of the state. Central and Eastern white North Carolinians were more enthusiastic about the Confederate cause; North Carolina contributed more troops to the Confederacy than any other state.

Initially, the policy of the Confederate populace was to embargo cotton shipments to Europe in hope of forcing them to recognize the Confederacy's independence to resume trade. The plan failed, and furthermore the Union's naval blockade of Southern ports drastically shrunk North Carolina's international commerce via shipping. Internally, the Confederacy had far fewer railroads than the Union. The breakdown of the Confederate transportation system took a heavy toll on North Carolina residents, as did the runaway inflation of the war years. In the spring of 1863, there were food riots in North Carolina (as well as Georgia)." Wikipedia (which can also be construed as a source of both deliberate and unfounded fact.)

Exploring history and passion or deploring history and passion will forever be unsolved.

We could also consider adding

We could also consider adding additional monuments or plaques at the site of every confederate memorial, that would clearly state slavery was wrong, was morally repugnant, as was the Jim Crow era that followed. It could state we can honor our ancestors without honoring their mistakes, just as we continue to love today's family members even if they've made some stupid mistake.

We could erect statues to Africans brought here as slaves and honor their struggles to survive.

In a way, such additional monuments would challenge the existing memorials as well as broaden our perceptions of our history and give respect to all our citizens.

Long-term

I agree - that's a long-term solution to add some perspective. Even that might be difficult - note the heated debate in Greensboro over the Greensboro Massacre marker, with some objecting to the word "Massacre" because it might hurt tourism.

One proposal that's been floated for the monument in Graham is to move it into the old courthouse, which will be turned into a historical museum. To me, that makes the most sense - the statue is in a central location in downtown Graham in the middle of the square. There's just no way to put any kind of context around this monument on sidewalks that wouldn't be disruptive to businesses and government office or traffic flow.

Markers and memorials are fine, but prominent displays like this raise the level of recognition of individuals from remembrance to promotion of a "lost cause". They become rallying points for the Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups.

That's why I still say it should be up to local communities to determine the best course of action and what makes the most sense in particular situations. The actions of the legislature take away that opportunity for local dialogue and create unnecessary hurdles. And some kind of short-term actions are required to highlight this problem.

Re-dedicate monuments to veterans

In some cases, these monuments could simply be re-dedicated to veterans. UNC could dedicate 'Silent Sam' to students and alumni who have served in all wars. Local communities should be able to decide, but that doesn't necessarily mean removal of monuments.

"Local Communities should be able to decide...."

Tell that to Charlotte (airport), Asheville (water), Waynesville/Lake Junaluska (annexation), Greensboro (city council districts).......

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The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR