They inflict fear and celebrate people who fought a war to protect their “right” to keep people in bondage. They send a message that African-Americans are subhuman. These should all be reasons enough to rip them down. Still, millions refuse to do so. Not just that, they deny their support of Confederate emblems have anything to do with racism. If the pain these statues inflict on black Americans does not convince you to remove them, how can you simultaneously argue that your support of them is not about racial insensitivity?
These defenders of Confederate symbols counter that these emblems are about “pride in Southern culture” and “heritage.” I agree: They are about the heritage—of slavery.
These statues are really about white “heritage.” If you have pride in them, you must support what the Confederacy represents. You must have affinity for a time when whites were unquestionably dominant and allowed to own their fellow humans. After all, if this was all about pride in heritage, there would be far fewer Confederate statues and far more statues of William Faulkner. If it were really about culture, there would not be countless representations of Jefferson Davis. They would just throw up a statue of Garth Brooks.
It’s not like there is a dearth of non-divisive things in Southern heritage to honor. The South is the cradle of American music. They could just run with that theme and there would be so many statues, there wouldn’t even be space to walk in Mississippi. A normal response to hearing about an effigy that celebrates Southern culture is: “Oh, it must be a rendering of early blues legend Robert Johnson. Or perhaps Loretta Lynn. Oh no. It’s Robert E. Lee again.” “What is this statue? It exalts someone in the military? A Southerner who lost his life in World War II perhaps? Oh no, it’s another guy who fought to keep slaves.”
The South has bestowed great gifts in the areas of music, literature—the arts in general. Think of all the great actors who have come from the South. Think of Southern cuisine. Hell, give us a statue of cornbread. Everyone loves cornbread. And cornbread never went to war against America for the sake of slavery.
I want to challenge these Confederate flag-waving folks. I will give them a flag with the images of Southern culture greats, Tennessee Williams, and Ray Charles. If they balk at that, maybe this truly isn’t about “heritage.” So let’s test it: Are they willing to substitute their beloved flag of racial oppression with one that displays the pictures of a legendary gay playwright and an astounding black musical artist? If not, they should drop this insistence that it’s all about pride. We see through it.