Across America, a slow -moving wave is rolling through. It is the wave of enlightenment of people to the systematic acts and symbols of racism in our country. Nationwide protests are being viewed as a wakeup call for some and as a nuisance to others.
Some have tuned out the message and balked at the very existence of such a thing.
Others have experienced a sense of understanding and responded with positive changes to address the issue.
Corporations, sports leagues, coaches and government leaders have responded to the call. Some are simply standing up saying they recognize the problem and others have begun to make policy changes.
While nation-wide protests about racial injustice rumble across the United States, some local governments and others have begun to remove monuments and statues that relate to the Civil War.
The last time there was such contempt for Confederate monuments was in 2017 in the aftermath of a violent altercation in Charlottesville, Virginia. Three people died after white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt right members clashed over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
As others are self- evaluating, it is time for us southerners to talk about those Confederate monuments.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 775 Confederate monuments and statues in public places in the United States. There are reportedly ten Confederate leaders who have monuments and places named after them.
Some of these men who have statues in their honor would never meet the criteria of a worthy subject by today’s standards.
Jefferson Davis, who became the president of the Confederate States of America has 149 statues, busts and places named after him. After the Civil War, he wrote a book defending the Confederacy and its cause of slave-ownership. In today’s political climate, he could also be accused of treason for his role.
Nathan Bedford, who has 43 statues, busts, monuments and places named for him, was a prominent Confederate general and high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan, which he helped found after the war.
Wade Hampton III, who has 16 statues, busts, and monuments, was a South Carolina slave owner and Confederate general. He led South Carolina in the fight to restore white supremacy and pushed systematic efforts to prevent black people from voting.
Robert E. Lee took up arms against his own country in defense of his right to enslave others.
These monuments were all erected long after the war was over. They contrasted with the earlier memorials that mourned dead soldiers. Their sole purpose was to glorify leaders of the Confederacy, making them a glorification of the cause of the Civil War.
In Alabama, we appear to be in a political conundrum.
After the monument takedown uproar in 2017, the Alabama legislature passed a law essentially blocking removal of any monument that has stood 40 years of more. The Alabama Preservation Act addresses the issue of protecting Confederate history with a fine of $25,000 for the removal of any monument.
Alabama is reportedly a Republican state.
The first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln, who was elected in 1860. He was instrumental in the party’s role in the abolition of slavery. The early GOP included African Americans and opposed the expansion of slavery.
President Trump has repeatedly defended the Confederacy while calling Republicans the party of Lincoln.
If Alabama Republicans really are the party of Lincoln, there should be no excuse for these monuments. Mr. Lincoln would never have approved of them.
Some insist they are about heritage and history, not racism. Really? The cornerstone of the Confederacy rested upon the opinion that the black man is not equal to the white man and that slavery is his natural and normal lot in life. The case could be made that the men who led the Confederacy essentially committed the act of treason against their country in their pursuit to own another human being.
Others say we need them as a reminder of our past. That justification makes about as much sense as saying a woman needs to keep a photo of her abusive ex-husband to remind her of her suffering.
There are no statues of Hitler and no one has ever forgotten who he was.
Even though I have lived in other states, I have never been ashamed to say I was born and raised in Alabama because those slave-owning southerners do not define who I am.
The monuments are relics of our past. They should not be destroyed but instead be placed in a museum so they can be presented in their historical context.
The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history. It is time for the south to rise again and let go of those symbols of a painful legacy unbecoming to us.
Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.