Many people are highly insulted by Confederate statues and monuments, and they want them taken down, destroyed, or both.
Since the latest movement in New Orleans to eliminate these relics that commemorate folks who tried to secede from the Union – which resulted in a war that cost 700,000 lives – some Black people have been asking questions.
“Is it worth it? Should we be spending our time on other things? If all the statues and monuments were eliminated tomorrow, would that help propel Black folks to a higher level in this country?”
Just my opinion
Because I have never been involved in any protest or action to remove a statue, a flag, or a memorial that celebrates the Confederacy, I will not attempt to answer those questions for anyone who has or is engaged in protesting them. But I offer my personal take on the matter.
Unless I was terrified by these inanimate objects, or they made me physically sick when I saw them, I wouldn’t care about them at all. So, I don’t care about them.
But I remember how my mother hated the “lawn jockeys” we would see when as we rode in our car. She always said if she had an axe, she would stop and destroy the little Black-faced man holding the horse’s ring. I guess my mother grew up seeing those little statues in West Virginia and was told they denoted hatred for Black people.
Having lived in the South during my teenage years, I experienced separate public accommodations. In 1960, I went from a majority-White school in Ohio to an all-Black school in North Carolina and I liked it. Those two years were the best of my life at that time.
I grew up there and realized many positive things about Black people in the South when it came to ownership, education, and self-determination. I was inspired, not discouraged, by what I saw in Black people.
I live in South Carolina now, and I see Confederate flags on trucks, hats, shirts, and other paraphernalia. Tt doesn’t bother me a bit. As long as the person wearing that stuff leaves me and mine alone, I’m fine. I am not suggesting everyone be like me; I am just sharing my experience.
Still at the bottom
Practically speaking, Black folks could spend the better part of the next decade or two removing icons of the Confederacy. Upon our victory of doing, so we would still be at the bottom of all economic indices in this nation.
According to the website fivethirtyeight.com, “…The Southern Poverty Law Center began collecting data on public displays of the Confederacy throughout the United States…they found more than 1,500 places or things commemorating the Confederacy, including more than a hundred schools and more than 700 monuments. The SPLC’s list of symbols also includes street and county names, as well as parks, military bases and a broad range of other public works or spaces. The vast majority are located in states that once made up the Confederacy, though they extend north and west as well.”
All those monuments and memorials, in addition to the personal relics owned by Confederate supporters, would occupy our time and energy for a very long time. Besides, to be diverted from the existential issues affecting Blacks would be hazardous.
Substance, not symbolism
We can multitask; we’ve always been good at that. But we must not abdicate our responsibility to achieve real power, socially, politically, and economically. We must be more concerned and active around substance rather than symbolism.
For those who want to protest monuments, please consider Selma, Alabama, where in March of every year Black folks walk across a bridge named after a staunch racist.
Where’s the call to change the name of the bridge from Edmund Pettus to, let’s say, the John R. Lewis Bridge, since he is the icon of the Selma march? Why don’t Black folks just make the change themselves in that majority-Black city with a Black mayor? Do you see the irony?
Also consider the “monumental” problem that exists in the “Black Mecca,” Atlanta. It’s called Stone Mountain and features Lee, Davis, and Stonewall. The carving is so large that a grown man can stand inside the ear of one of the horses and is the largest Confederate monument in America.
Klan associates William and Samuel Venable, bought the mountain in 1887 for $48,000 and granted permission to Helen Plane to create her vision of a Confederate memorial carved in stone. As I always say, “Ownership is key.”
James E. Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His latest book, “Black Dollars Matter! Teach Your Dollars How To Make More Sense,” is available on his website, Blackonomics.com, and Amazon Kindle eBooks.