Soapbox

Feds should put Confederate monuments in their proper places: museums

City workers drape a tarp over the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation park in Charlottesville, Virginia
City workers drape a tarp over the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation park in Charlottesville, Virginia AP

I am re-introducing a resolution urging Congress to take down monuments to Confederate leaders, and rename federal buildings, parks, roadways or other federally owned property that bear Confederate leaders’ names.

I do this fully aware of the often visceral reaction some people have to this idea. But I hope people can try on another’s perspective. What if a statue honored a man who killed or enslaved your ancestors? Wouldn’t you feel insulted, perhaps intimidated by the people who insisted on keeping those statues standing?

Many whites cannot understand why blacks and others are offended by memorials to Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis. They don’t see the humiliation, the feeling of subjugation or intimidation that these names evoke. They don’t see the history of racism behind the symbol of the Confederate flag.

The number of Confederate memorials spiked during the early 1900s when the KKK was ascendant and lynchings reached a peak, and as a backlash to civil rights efforts in the 1950s and 1960s.

Some critics have said that if Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee must go, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson must follow. There is no comparison. Confederate leaders were intent on tearing apart this country to perpetuate the system of slavery. Washington and Jefferson were devoted to creating this country.

Still, polls show the idea of taking down these memorials doesn’t sit right with some people. Part of the objection is tied in with the South’s sense of its place in history. It also has to do with Americans’ desire to hold onto historical artifacts. We don’t burn books, or erase names of political or historical figures depending on who’s in power.

In Senate Joint Resolution 14, I don’t propose to erase our history. Rather, the monuments should be placed in museums, where they can be viewed in context. Instead of elevating Confederate figures as heroes, we should see them in all their complexity.

Today, hatemongers seek refuge in the shadows of Confederate symbols. These statues and memorials should collect dust in museums, where they can be seen in their proper context – as leaders of a failed system of racial superiority that still rings far too loud.

Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat, represents the 7th Senate District. He can be contacted at Senator.glazer@senate.ca.gov.

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