From a Robert E. Lee Descendant.
We should relocate our racist statues to museums where we can remember our racist history in the appropriate context.
I’m a descendant of General Robert E. Lee.
My family also descends from George Washington and John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court. (The oligarchy was a rather small club back in the day.) And I, along with many other Lee descendants, say: Remove the statues.
Yet, this week President Donald Trump has made it his mission to catch and prosecute those who have taken down statues. I’m positive he’s not doing it out of any racist ideology, although it doesn’t help that he also retweeted a white power message soon afterwards.
With that said, here are four exceedingly stupid reasons to keep the statues in place, and how to refute them. If you agree with any of these arguments… ummm, stop doing that.
1) Removing statues means we will never again know our history.
YES! One can only learn history from metallic facsimiles which consist of 30 percent copper, 20 perent tin, and 50 percent pigeon shit. Seeing these monuments is the only way to learn about things. I myself had never heard of the existence of long pointy sticks until I saw the Washington Monument. I didn’t know of America’s love affair with beans until I saw the big shiny one in Chicago. And I didn’t know the creator of McDonald’s was a founding father until I saw the giant arch in St. Louis. (They have yet to paint it golden though.)
2) Our statues teach our children what to value in society.
I couldn’t agree more. Judging by the numbers of statue subjects, women and people of color are roughly 95 percent less important than horses. Indeed, our equine friends have exceedingly more representation in the monument world, but that is simply because they have accomplished so very much. Many of our best presidents were horses. A horse invented the light bulb. (You might argue that’s not true, but without a statue about it, you can’t prove it.)
3) The Confederate statues are not racist.
Indeed! They are just large monuments to remind us of the military prowess of brave men who fought… on the losing side of a war to keep black people as their property. Or in the case of Columbus, bravely fought… to claim he landed in India before enslaving and torturing–Let’s not get bogged down in the details. Let’s just leave it at “military prowess.”
Unfortunately, the statues are unequivocally racist. Most of the Confederate ones weren’t even put up immediately following the Civil War. I spoke with professor David Goldfield, one of the top Civil War historians in the country and the author of “America Aflame: How The Civil War Created A Nation.” He told me, “Most of these statues and memorials were put up during the height of the Jim Crow era, much less to commemorate the Confederate dead and the war itself, than to put an exclamation point on white supremacy and declare that African Americans – their past, their present, and their future – don’t matter. They’re invisible.”
And in terms of the Confederate battle flag — the so-called “stars and bars” — it didn’t enjoy much popularity either until it was used as a symbol of support for oppression. Goldfield said, “The battle flag came back in favor in the late 1940s, first as a symbol of the Dixiecrats (the breakaway faction of Southern Democrats opposed to President Harry Truman’s civil rights initiatives), and then in the 1950s when the civil rights movement launched its drive for racial equality.” So basically, the Confederate flag that we’re familiar with today was mainly just a middle finger to equality for African Americans.
4) Yes, America needs to evolve, and American policing needs to change. But don’t tear down the statues. If you do, you’ll be throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Of course, in this case the baby is racist and owns several people as property, but it’s a baby nonetheless. (Gotta be honest — I’ve never understood that expression. You’ve just washed the baby and then you throw it out with the bath water? Why would you throw out a clean baby? If you’re gonna toss a baby, ditch a soiled one. Everyone knows that. Don’t bother cleaning it first.)
Popular Mechanics – which is not as popular as the name suggests (thou doth protest too much) – recently published an article that was not meant to help people tear down statues of American racist icons but happened to be titled “How to Topple a Statue Using Science.” (Science? Ha! As if that’s a real thing. Do you see any statues commemorating it? Don’t think so.)
The article goes on to list how one could bring down a statue if one wanted to (but you totally should not read it and should not tear down a racist statue in what some consider vandalism). The article says you will likely need 70 people pulling on very strong ropes or straps to bring down a statue. (So do not find 70 of your closest friends and have a “topple the racist slave-owning dickwad” party. Do not suggest there will be free pizza there, which will help make sure people show up. Do not make sure to get the ropes or chains around the head of the statue because putting them around the feet will not create nearly enough leverage to accomplish the goal. …if you had such a goal, which you do not because you are not going to do this.)
To sum it up, we should relocate our racist statues to museums where we can remember our racist history with the appropriate context. This will make room in the middle of towns for new statues – of women, black people, Latinx, indigenous, white guys who aren’t slave-owning assholes. There must be some out there. Umm, Justin Timberlake? Um, Sherlock Holmes? How about Bruce Wayne? I think two-thirds of those are fictional, but I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
America may need to be dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming, but we can do it. Let’s move past this racist shit. Let’s stop behaving as if we’re still twelve. … Nineteen Twelve.
Lee Camp is the host of the hit comedy news show “Redacted Tonight.” His new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” is available at LeeCampBook.com and his stand-up comedy special – which includes material about the Confederate statues – can be streamed for free at LeeCampAmerican.com.