by Deborah Deering Mowrey
For many years a certain popular radio personality became well known for taking a story that everyone thought they already knew and presenting it with all the background and details that revealed a completely different understanding. In today’s climate of closed minds and tribalism that can be a tough sell. But I believe there are still many folks who genuinely just want the facts.
So what are the facts about all these Confederate statues scattered across the South? First, almost none were put up right after the Civil War. The vast majority were erected during the Jim Crow era, a time when states enacted laws segregating African Americans dooming them to poor schools, services, extreme voter suppression, and violence. That violence included a documented 186 lynchings of black people in 1893 alone – mostly men but women and children, too. It is widely believed by historians that these statues were primarily a continuation of this display of white supremacy.
“But it’s history! Removing them is erasing history!” That seems to be the reasoning by some to leave them up. Then I would suggest they be put in a museum. Teaching history is the primary function of history museums and we have lots of them. Placing a statue on public property conveys a celebration, an honoring of what that statue represents. This is 2017. Do we really want to communicate that we honor people who sought to destroy our union or who fought to preserve an idea as repugnant as slavery?
“So it’s Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis now. Who’s next? George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? They owned Slaves!” This is so ridiculous that I can’t believe anyone genuinely can’t see the difference in our founding fathers who created this great country and those who fought to destroy it. Come on!!!
“You are trying to destroy our culture!” Seriously? As a fifth generation Texan who grew up in a small Texas town and who has traveled throughout the South enjoying its beauty and hospitality, I have to say that argument for keeping the statues up is probably the worst. If you think a losing insurrection ending 152 years ago is our region’s claim to fame then you don’t know the South! We have produced some of our nation’s greatest artists and writers (how about a statue of Faulkner?), the best cuisine anywhere (ok, I’m prejudiced), and did I mention the first word spoken on the moon was the name of our own Southern city. Wouldn’t it be great to have statues in Herman Park and other prominent public places that celebrate and honor astronauts or scientists or others who had a positive impact on our nation and deserve our respect and admiration … THAT’S what statues are for! … and that’s the rest of the story.
Deborah Deering Mowrey is a political activist in Kingwood, Texas who is intent on making a difference. She knows that the sum of hundreds of thousands activating will ultimately make a difference.