“Monuments Must Go” Movement

Workers preparing to remove a monument in New Orleans in April

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Workers preparing to remove a monument in New Orleans in April

Violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia this summer as a group of white nationalists protested a City Council proposal to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate leader during the Civil War. With the onset of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, the issue of monuments to Confederate leaders has become a point of contention, especially in the southern United States. This summer alone, over a dozen statues of Confederates have been removed across the country, from Louisiana to Brooklyn.

While the statues in Charlottesville are still in place due to the riots, many other cities feel an urgency to address the issue before matter get out of hand. Due to threats that the city council of New Orleans received, a police squad was present to protect the workers. In Durham, North Carolina, protesters took down a statue of a Confederate soldier. The mayor of Baltimore also decided that it was best to remove four monuments after the events in Charlottesville.

The Charlottesville violence and protests have caused mixed opinions on the Civil War to resurface. Many Americans believe that the Civil War monuments represent an integral part of the country’s history, so taking them down would be removing a piece of our culture. In a series of tweets, President Trump sided with this view, saying he is “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it.”

On the other hand, the Confederacy reflects a dark period in American history, where slavery and the mistreatment of African Americans was ingrained in the United States culture. Many supporters of removing the statues argue that we should not be revering Americans who violated the values of equality and tolerance that are the foundation of our Constitution. They worry that rather than being a symbol of Southern pride, these statutes and Civil War relics indicate white power and supremacy. In New Orleans, after four Confederate monuments were removed, Mayor Mitch Landrieu eloquently voiced the concerns of many Americans: “These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.”

Despite the intensity of the debate, this discussion presents a good lesson for Americans today: that it is important to challenge principles that have governed our country, every so often, in hopes of creating a better future.