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Removing Confederate statues does not sugarcoat history, leaving them does

Removing Confederate statues does not sugarcoat history, leaving them does

Removing Confederate statues does not sugarcoat history, leaving them does
February 28
01:09 2019

The Dallas City Council decided in a recent 11-4 vote to remove the Confederate War Memorial across the street from Dallas City Hall. This is the second time in less than two years that the council has voted to take down a long-standing monument dedicated to the Confederacy, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Not long after the 2017 white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville, the council voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park downtown. Now, after years of debate, the city has decided to take down the 65-foot obelisk topped with a Confederate soldier and surrounded by statues of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Albert Johnson.

The removal of the memorial has stirred up conflict between the council and Preservation Dallas because it stands in Pioneer Cemetery, a designated city landmark. The Landmark Commission will have a vote before the monument can be removed. If it votes against the removal, then the motion will be appealed.

The Dallas City Council has long stood divided on the removal of Confederate statues, some of its members claiming the removal of monuments are an erasure of history. American history, councilman Rickey Callahan said to the Dallas Morning News, was “bloody” and “sinful,”  but “it’s our history.” Councilwoman Jennifer Gates asked for the final decision to be delayed until the June 12 council meeting in hopes that the delay would give Southern Methodist University lecturer and artist Lauren Woods time to develop a plan to “modernize” the monument so as not to remove it entirely but eradicate it of its harrowing narrative instead.

Can the painful, horrific history of such gruesome events of our nation’s (and cities’) past simply be recontextualized, though? I don’t think that effort is worth it or even plausible. Monuments are meant to honor and memorialize heroism and accomplishment, not teach history lessons. Leaving these types of commemorations glamorizes the Confederacy and everything it stood for.

It is impossible to erase history and I don’t think historical erasure is the goal of Confederate monument removal. Removing the monuments can be a step in a progressive direction, leaving room to prove that our country can change and has the potential for growth from such a backward mindset. Keeping these statues in place only proves that our values and ethics, or lack thereof, have stayed the same, which isn’t surprising, unfortunately.

I refuse to believe that this nation has made no progress in the last two centuries. With this progress, it is an asinine feat to attempt to reimagine our pro-slavery past. Reconceptualizing the events of the Confederacy is more an erasure of history than actually removing the statues themselves. Those who oppose the monument’s removal only wish to sugarcoat the harsh realities of everything it represents.

History cannot, and should not, be rewritten. That’s all that “reconceptualizing” will do – attempt to rewrite a prettier, less offensive version of the atrocities committed and fought for by the Confederate leaders who currently stand tall and proud in downtown Dallas.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Chaia Brett

Chaia Brett

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