Why Confederate Statues Should Be Removed from the U.S. Capitol

On Wednesday, June 30, 2021, Washington Journal invited callers to share their thoughts about the House’s vote to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol.

Fred from Cherry Hill, New Jersey said he opposed the removal because the statues are “works of art” and “art is important for its own sake, and the subject matter is not necessarily so important. Just because the subject of these statues have fallen out of favor is no reason to deprive people of the enjoyment of a work of art people slaved over and put their hearts and souls into creating.”

“Slaved over” is a bad choice of words given the statues honor men who enslaved Africans. The subject of statues does matter. In fact, it’s the only thing that matters when it comes to statues. There’s a statue of Roberto Clemente outside PNC Park because he’s considered by many to be the greatest Pittsburgh Pirate and baseball player who ever lived. We’re not debating the removal of paintings from a museum. The House voted to remove honorary statues of slaveholders and traitors from the People’s House.

Another caller, Paul from Lexington, Kentucky said he opposed the removal because he sees it as an attempt to “sanitize history.” In a very Trump-like fashion, he questioned where it would stop. “Are you going to tear down the Jefferson Memorial because he owned slaves?’

While I agree that there’s harm in sanitizing history, I think it’s incorrect to suggest that removing the statues of Confederates from the Capitol is an example of that happening. Statues serve as a way of honoring the subjects depicted by them. In actuality, not only do we honor Confederates, who were, in fact, traitors, we’re also sanitizing history by maintaining the statues of traitors on the Capitol grounds, both the literal and symbolic legislative headquarters for the federal Union they were fighting against.

There’s also the false teaching of the lost cause that exists in some Southern states (see this eye opening criticism of a history textbook from Youtuber Vaush); talk about severe sanitizing. Without question, those who adhere to this false doctrine that the war was about states’ rights, rather than the preservation of human history’s most immoral institution that treated human beings as property for the profit of others, maintain that the statues should stay, whether in the Capitol or outside city courthouses and campuses across the South, many of which were installed during the Jim Crow era, when the KKK was at the height of its popularity, and later, when the civil rights era demanded the enforcement of equal rights protections under the law for African Americans. In other words, white supremacy and intimidation were always the primary motivations behind erecting Confederate statues.

As the caller Wayne from Fairburn, Georgia put it, “We should honor people who deserve that honor in our history. But people who have done things like support slavery, they should not be honored. We can take those statues and put them in museums and explain to people what they did; not destroy the statues. But in terms of honoring them, you should have a position in history that is honorable.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.




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