Every now and again, someone wonders why I care so much about monuments to those who committed treason in defense of slavery 150 years ago. The answer is of course that those monuments are actually monuments to white supremacy and influence racists today, including Dylann Roof when he shot up Denmark Vesey’s church. Now that New Orleans is seeking to take down several monuments that reinforced white supremacy, a number of white people are going ballistic, going to show just how much these things really do matter. Jarvis DeBerry for the Times-Picayune
If the monuments weren’t a big deal, tens of thousands of people (the overwhelming majority of whom don’t live in the city) would not have signed a petition to keep them standing.
If the monuments weren’t significant, there wouldn’t have been people who drove from great distances to stand outside City Hall and wave Confederate battle flags in protest.
If the monuments didn’t really matter, there wouldn’t have been standing-room-only crowds in the City Council chambers when an ordinance to remove the monuments was being discussed.
If the monuments were nothing more than a meaningless part of our cityscape, then the contractor who has been hired to eventually remove them wouldn’t be fielding death threats or threats from other business owners to never work with that contractor again.
But city officials said in federal court Thursday morning that that is what has happened. An attorney for H&O Investments of Baton Rouge says his client has withdrawn from the job because the lives of the company’s employees have been threatened and other businesses have threatened to cancel their contracts with the company.
Somebody’s dialing in death threats because a statue to Robert E. Lee might fall? Other business owners are saying we can’t be your friend anymore because you’re removing Jefferson Davis from his pedestal?
Exactly when did these monuments start mattering to so many people?
The answer, obviously, is that they have always mattered. They were a big deal when they were erected. They’re a big deal now. And at now point in the meantime has their presence been insignificant.
Monuments to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis are the American equivalent of monuments placed up after the fact to Nazis and Soviet leaders. They represent power intended to oppress others. Naturally the oppressors don’t like their symbols coming down. They never do. It is indeed our duty to take these monuments down.