Confederate Flags and Monuments in America

by Cheng-En Yew 

 

On August 12th, 2017, James Alex Field Jr. rammed his Dodge Challenger through a group of anti-fascist protesters to cap off a series of violent protests erupting throughout the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. The tragedy injured dozens of protesters and killed one, further contributing to the detrimental violence originating from racial hatred. Such a horrific atrocity now shines a spotlight on the source of an imposing yet underlying social issue, the very existence of confederate monuments. The erection of confederate monuments honoring the bravery of the soldiers who fought for the now defunct Confederate States of America has been fettered with countless controversies surrounding the principles for which they fought for. Some argue for the removal of such monuments, claiming that they symbolize the oppression of blacks and the betrayal of the Union while others claim the legacy of the Confederacy must remain to honor their ancestors who put their lives on the line for their beliefs and ideals, a celebrated American virtue. However, in order to truly understand the controversies, one must be able to fully comprehend the reasons why they were initially erected.

 

Although the vast majority of confederate monuments were built for commemorative purposes, as Civil War veterans began to die out in high frequencies during the early 1900s, a resurgence of such monuments occurred once more during the rise of the Civil Rights movement and the decline of Jim Crow laws. With a revolution of African Americans seeking social justice and equality, on the way,white supremacist groups, such as the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan sought to find ways to intimidate them into silence. White Supremacists did this through the physically imposing, yet unassuming tactic of erecting monuments throughout the South of the United States, under the guise of celebrating the heritage of the United States. Nationalists strategically placed these grandiose structures in schools and courthouses to intimidate and remind blacks to think twice before seeking a proper education or a chance at  social justice. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu stated in a May 19th press conference about the removal of confederate monuments, “After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning a cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city [New Orleans].”

 

The purpose of these statues are clear in mind however, many American citizens still agree to allow them to remain. For instance, a political poll performed by Siena College in Albany, New York revealed that 59% of voters leaned towards the continued existence of these monuments. Looking further into the statistics, 84% of Republicans, 49% of Democrats, and 48% of African Americans supported the continued existence of these statues. Resistance to sustain the symbolic lives of these statues is on its last legs, as monuments in Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin, and Missouri are being taken down in large numbers while other states such as Alabama and Texas are considering to follow suit. Nearly after 150 years since the end of the Civil War, it is undeniable that cultural tensions are once again causing a rift among the people.