Foolish me……I’m going to weigh in.

There has been a lot of talk lately about all the Confederate Monuments and whether they should be taken down or not. 

Foolish me……I’m going to weigh in and say yes they should be moved from places of honor in our public forums and moved somewhere they can be given a context and studied for what they were and why they were erected in the first place.

Lee_Removal_640_ConfederateWe need to recognize how the monuments were used to further the false narrative that our kinsmen died for a noble cause and the subtext that African-Americans need to be shown their place.

Are we re-writing History…..yes we are and we should be.  History is not a static thing.  Historians studying our past become more informed as more information is revealed and uncovered or because the lens of our perceptions have become more enlightened and evolved.

I was born in 1957 and raised in Dallas, Texas. When I was a young boy, my friends and I enjoyed playing soldier like so many little boys do.  Funny thing though, we weren’t playing U.S. soldier verses the Viet Cong or U.S. soldiers verses Germans or Japanese.  Our brand of playing soldier was was peculiar to the South I believe.  We played Rebs and Yankees.

In our little impressionable minds the Rebs were always the winners and the Yankees were the losers. In my group of friends, you would only volunteer to play a Yankee, if you got to be a Reb the next time we played soldier.  And in the minds of so many adults of my childhood,  the South lost a “Noble Cause” to the North who were still viewed as the transgressors. That was the White Southern Narrative…….a narrative both dangerous and wrong.

As I got older that narrative didn’t change much and was even promoted as truthful history in public school.  There was even the false narrative that it was a noble battle about state rights and the overreaching of the national government……as if state rights somehow trumps slavery.

confederatestatuetexascapitol
Plaque on 1903 Confederate Statue @ State Capitol in Austin, photo by Cameron Addis, Ph.D.

Never in my early education was I exposed to the document below.  I was always told that the Civil War was never about Slavery but how the Northerners were just trying to impose their way of life on ours.

A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union.

The government of the United States, by certain joint resolutions, bearing date the 1st day of March, in the year A.D. 1845, proposed to the Republic of Texas, then *a free, sovereign and independent nation, the annexation of the latter to the former, as one of the co-equal states thereof,

The people of Texas, by deputies in convention assembled, on the fourth day of July of the same year, assented to and accepted said proposals and formed a constitution for the proposed State, upon which on the 29th day of December in the same year, said State was formally admitted into the Confederated Union.

Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretenses and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave holding States.

By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States.

The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of bandits from the neighboring territory of Mexico; and when our State government has expended large amounts for such purpose, the Federal Government has refuse reimbursement therefor, thus rendering our condition more insecure and harassing than it was during the existence of the Republic of Texas.

These and other wrongs we have patiently borne in the vain hope that a returning sense of justice and humanity would induce a different course of administration.

When we advert to the course of individual non-slave-holding States, and that a majority of their citizens, our grievances assume far greater magnitude.

The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article [the fugitive slave clause] of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact, designed by its framers to perpetuate the amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holding States in their domestic institutions– a provision founded in justice and wisdom, and without the enforcement of which the compact fails to accomplish the object of its creation. Some of those States have imposed high fines and degrading penalties upon any of their citizens or officers who may carry out in good faith that provision of the compact, or the federal laws enacted in accordance therewith.

In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color– a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.

For years past this abolition organization has been actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union, and has rendered the federal congress the arena for spreading firebrands and hatred between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States.

By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments. They have proclaimed, and at the ballot box sustained, the revolutionary doctrine that there is a ‘higher law’ than the constitution and laws of our Federal Union, and virtually that they will disregard their oaths and trample upon our rights.

They have for years past encouraged and sustained lawless organizations to steal our slaves and prevent their recapture, and have repeatedly murdered Southern citizens while lawfully seeking their rendition.

They have invaded Southern soil and murdered unoffending citizens, and through the press their leading men and a fanatical pulpit have bestowed praise upon the actors and assassins in these crimes, while the governors of several of their States have refused to deliver parties implicated and indicted for participation in such offenses, upon the legal demands of the States aggrieved.

They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides.

They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose.

They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.

They have refused to vote appropriations for protecting Texas against ruthless savages, for the sole reason that she is a slave-holding State.

And, finally, by the combined sectional vote of the seventeen non-slave-holding States, they have elected as president and vice-president of the whole confederacy two men whose chief claims to such high positions are their approval of these long continued wrongs, and their pledges to continue them to the final consummation of these schemes for the ruin of the slave-holding States.

In view of these and many other facts, it is meet that our own views should be distinctly proclaimed.

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.

By the secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.

For these and other reasons, solemnly asserting that the federal constitution has been violated and virtually abrogated by the several States named, seeing that the federal government is now passing under the control of our enemies to be diverted from the exalted objects of its creation to those of oppression and wrong, and realizing that our own State can no longer look for protection, but to God and her own sons– We the delegates of the people of Texas, in Convention assembled, have passed an ordinance dissolving all political connection with the government of the United States of America and the people thereof and confidently appeal to the intelligence and patriotism of the freemen of Texas to ratify the same at the ballot box, on the 23rd day of the present month.

Adopted in Convention on the 2nd day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one and of the independence of Texas the twenty-fifth.

Taken from www.civilwar.org

For a slave owner who has made their livelihood off the sweat and blood of his slaves, this was reason enough to go to war with his fellow United States citizens.  In the southern narrative it was the North who were traitors when in reality it was the treason committed by the Southern “Heroes” who have memorials built in their name in town squares and parks across the south, along with major streets and schools bearing their names.  I am not talking about the hapless foot soldier conscripted into war but the wealthy white landowners, generals and leaders of the Confederacy who through their greed for wealth, power and delusions that the “white race” was somehow superior, decided to tear our country in two all so they could continue hold back the promise of our “Imperfect Union” that all men are created equal.

When someone says I’m endorsing erasing “our” history; nothing could be further from the truth. In reality I totally acknowledge our history. As great as our Nation is, and how many wonderful things it has brought forth, our country has had it’s dark moments.

I don’t know if I had any relatives in my family tree that bought and owned slaves….but I did have relatives who fought and died while serving in the Confederacy and quite truthfully I feel no particular pride in that, but it is a part of my history.

Old habits, ideologies and ignorance die hard.

On a side note, I was raised in a very liberal home by parents who grew up in the segregated south.  When I was in my teens I dated a lovely African-American young lady.  I remember my father bristling when I brought her home.  Later I questioned my father about it saying with everything they taught me growing up, I didn’t understand his reaction to my dating this wonderful young lady.

Much to my father’s credit he said, “it’s not you, it’s not her….it’s me and I’m ashamed of how I reacted.  Son you got to understand that growing up in the segregated south we were taught that there are white people and then there are niggers and spicks”……..two words that were not a part of our family vocabulary.  Matter of fact it was shocking when I heard these words come out of my father’s mouth.

He said intellectually he knew that his reaction was pure ignorance and he fought it tooth and nailed by getting an education……but the prejudice which permeated his childhood upbringing would occasionally bubble up through him and for that he was ashamed.

May 9th, 1930, my father witnessed the lynching of Georges Hughes at the Courthouse in Sherman.

So yes I believe that it is time to move these Confederate old statues and memorials.  It is time to change the names of streets and schools that bear the names of Confederate generals. 

 It is time for our country to tend to the open wound of our past so the hope of the future can hopefully heal us as a nation. There are noble people and ideas that we can memorialize that could serve us better as a nation.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Links to related information:

Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu’s Address on Removal of Four Confederate Statues

Great article by Light Cummins published in the Sherman/Dennison Herald Democrat

Very good article by Richard Brettell in the Dallas Morning News about the General Lee Monument was at Lee Park in Dallas before it’s removal and the artist who created it.

The Civil War and American Art: An interview with Eleanor J. Harvey, Senior Curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Connecticut was home to leading manufacturer of Civil War monuments

Confederate Monuments were built to change history, not preserve it

Monuments to Progressive Americans

How the cult of Robert E. Lee was born


7 thoughts on “Foolish me……I’m going to weigh in.

  1. Thank you, Martin. I agree with you. I did not grow up in the south, went to integrated schools, and elt like I was not prejudiced, but just didn’t know what to think about the statue thing. It bothered me a bit. Thank you for making everything clear to me

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  2. I was led to your written piece by my friend Tamber. I had never read the article: A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union, but it is repulsive and makes me cringe in shame for its ignorant and sinister heartlessness and cruelty. I was raised in Dallas also, and have witnessed the legacy of cruelty and hate that still lives here. I live a very privileged life. I’m glad to see this document that burns all false arguments that say this is not about racism or slavery- IT IS ALL ABOUT RACISM AND SLAVERY. One other thing: I’d like to see things named after inspirations and aspirations. Instead of Robt. E. Lee School, howbout Equanimity Elementary? Success HS? Productive Jr. High? Lovingkindness Preschool? Naming after people always has an ulterior motive IMHO. Truth is transparent and builds up everybody. It might give students a place to start thinking about the values they want to integrate into their lives. Thank you for your writing. It is bright and well supported! All the best to you.

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  3. I respect your opinion, I’m just not at a point where I can accept it, fully. Different waters have flowed under our two bridges of life. My family is all of Southern origin since the early 17th century. All of my ancestors were planters in Virginia, before spreading throughout the Southern colonies and westward into Missouri, during the antebellum period. I was raised to have respect for everyone and most particularly, the descendants of the enslaved Americans. I always will, that’ll never change. I’ll continue to clean and document the existing slave cemeteries in my area. That won’t change. I’ll continue to provide historical records to descendants of the slaves from plantation records; so, they’ll be able to trace their own histories…and, I’ll help them all I can. That won’t change. I’m not racist, nor will I ever be; but, I just don’t condone the removal of monuments. I’ve said, all along, leave them alone and erect new monuments nearby…in each case…presenting what “the other side” feels need to be represented….ALL OUT OF RESPECT. I currently live where my family has lived for over 200 years; and, I’m in constant contact with descendants of my families’ enslaved. We consider ourselves FAMILY; and, we refer to each other as “cousins”. We grieve with one another everytime elders pass away in our families and celebrate births and marriages in each others’ families. That’ll never change! We KNOW our histories! It’s just not that way in urban areas of the country; and, I don’t see that ever changing.

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