"these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross"
May 24, 2017 3:43 PM   Subscribe

New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, who has presided over the city's dismantling of Confederate monuments, delivered a righteous defense of the decision in a speech about history, race, and legacy. Seriously, read the whole thing.
posted by lalex (121 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes: read the whole thing. Thanks for the post...
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 3:56 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


The people that most need to read that, CSA apologists, won't.
posted by COD at 3:57 PM on May 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


As a Southerner, I'm so grateful for this speech and its slow-burn popularity on the Internet the past few days. Particularly for this part that gives the lie to "but Confederate statues are valuable history!"
So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions; why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame... all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.
posted by Nelson at 3:57 PM on May 24, 2017 [105 favorites]


The people that most need to read that, CSA apologists, won't.

The people who most need to read that are the self-described centrists who think BLM is going too far and thinks we shouldn't dishonor heritage by renaming things. Those people have a brain and can potentially be reached, but their instinctual drive to not cause a fuss is sending their intuition down the wrong path at the moment.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:06 PM on May 24, 2017 [77 favorites]


I read this and immediately asked, is this guy going to be President? But also I have no idea what's normal or possible anymore, so, you know. Grains of salt.

At the same time, while the speech reads as historic, black people have been saying this stuff for a while. I know it's a marker of something when the white mayor of New Orleans gives this speech, but there's a part of me that's like...of course.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:07 PM on May 24, 2017 [22 favorites]


I have relatives in New Orleans, and I was very pleased to hear the statues were coming down. The degree of resistance to it has been literally ridiculous. For instance, the opponents argued that it was illegal to remove the statue of Robert E Lee because the streetcar line had been constructed around it, which made it part of the streetcar line, and since the statue was a monument, and the streetcar line was partially constructed with Federal funds, that made the statue a Federal monument. Palm, meet face.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:12 PM on May 24, 2017 [10 favorites]


This is one of those speeches that genuinely gives me hope for America. Those are few and far between, and I'm grasping at straws for hope these days, so I'll take it.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:12 PM on May 24, 2017 [19 favorites]


There are many great points in this speech, but this was my favorite:
So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.
In some areas, this is probably a controversial statement, but this Lost Cause shit has gone on long enough.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:34 PM on May 24, 2017 [77 favorites]


God damn.
posted by clockwork at 4:34 PM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


The speech can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0jQTHis3f4.

This is the first time in a long time that I got chills running down my spine. Chills of gratitude and hope.
posted by charlesminus at 4:40 PM on May 24, 2017 [8 favorites]


I would have sworn that this had been posted here already, it's been everywhere on social media for days.
posted by octothorpe at 4:41 PM on May 24, 2017


I had mentioned it in one of the political threads but thought it merited its own discussion space. The content is obviously!! important, but part of the reason I posted it is because it's a remarkably well-crafted piece of rhetoric.
posted by lalex at 4:44 PM on May 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


It is an amazingly good speech. I would not have guessed there was a mayor of a city in this country that could give a speech like that.
posted by straight at 4:44 PM on May 24, 2017 [7 favorites]


And it immediately begs the questions; why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame... all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

My home city of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy and the second-biggest slave market in the country after New Orleans, only recently decided not to build a minor-league baseball stadium two blocks from the archaeological dig at the site of a slave jail, and an African burial ground that as recently as 2010 was a state-owned parking lot. Yet, along Monument Avenue, the statues of Davis, Lee, Jackson, Stuart and Maury still stand in a place of honor. Nothing at these monuments would tell anyone about the horrors and indignities of their Lost Cause of slavery. What Richmond does have is a "Slavery Reconciliation Statue", a twin of two others in Liverpool and Cotonou, Benin. How can we claim "reconciliation" when a city refuses to accept its own history, warts and all?
posted by enjoymoreradio at 4:54 PM on May 24, 2017 [20 favorites]


A quick point with many caveats attached because of who I am and am not: I'm a white male non-Southerner who finds every aspect of the hagiography of the Confederacy disgusting.

I wish we could look at these ugly parts of our history and be maybe not quite so quick to remove them; not be so anxious to symbolically send them down the memory hole. Landrieu's speech was fucking amazing and I think the bit Nelson quoted above underlines something important, particularly:
why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame.... So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.
I look at this tendency we seem to have as being foundationally linked to the old idea that in America, you can be who you want to be. You can come from the old country, slough off those bits of yourself you no longer feel are part of you: change your name from Chaim to Charles, from Markovnikov to Marks. Shave your beard, or grow it. Here, in this country, you are able to fashion yourself as you want to be seen, and perhaps want to become.

I wish on some level that these monuments could go the way of Nuremburg. There, the stadium stands in disrepair; weeds encroach on the paving stones, young men play pick-up football matches. It hasn't been demolished. There are a few plaques scattered around, if you can find them, but the overarching sense there is that this is a place that played a part in Germany's history. It's a dark history and one which the German people continue to work through. It's not gone; it's not forgotten, but it's now irretrievably inflected - maybe even rendered harmless - by the fact that there has been a witting decision to acknowledge the role this place played in that time.

I kind of wish, to be honest, that we could take the monuments as a challenge: to make our history explicitly acknowledge the darkest bits of the American experiment and recontextualize them; maybe offer a call to artists and sculptors and muralists to create public art out of these monuments that does exactly that. I totally get the instinct to make them go away, and I'm definitely ambivalent about it, but I wonder if consigning them to invisibility is a little too easy, in the long run. I would like to find a way to engage my children in the nation's past, good and bad. A recontextualized monument to Confederate soldiers has, I'm pretty sure, a lot more power to educate and remind when it's juxtaposed with other memorials - to the millions of Africans and African-Americans for whom the Confederacy and Jim Crow and the rest of America's shameful racial history meant dehumanization, rape, and death - than does an empty plinth.

So good on Landrieu for his clarity of conscience, and fuck the fetishists who yammer on about "history, not hatred," and the rest of the cryptoracist dogwhistle bullshit.

But I kind of wish I felt like we were more willing to stare this part of ourselves in the face than simply disappear it and hope that makes things better.

[on preview, what enjoymoreradio said much more succinctly. Also, I did not know about the statue in Richmond. Awesome.]
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:04 PM on May 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


There was an interesting op-ed in the Washington Post today from Charlottesville VA Mayor Michael Singer on why his preference is not to destroy such monuments, but incorporate them into a reimagined counter-narrative reminder of the Jim Crow era.
posted by stevis23 at 5:21 PM on May 24, 2017 [4 favorites]




But I kind of wish I felt like we were more willing to stare this part of ourselves in the face than simply disappear it and hope that makes things better.

There's not a goddamn thing that's disappearing, other than some statures that seek to glorify some assholes who thought slavery a perfectly good reason to break America apart.

We have plenty of history books, no need to walk in the shadow of dead people who sought to tear us apart.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:27 PM on May 24, 2017 [36 favorites]


And it immediately begs the questions; why there are no slave ship monuments,

The "Black Holocaust Museum" that used to physically exist has been bulldozed and now is just virtual. So one of the things that used to exist physically no longer does.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:37 PM on May 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


But I kind of wish I felt like we were more willing to stare this part of ourselves in the face than simply disappear it and hope that makes things better.


this is the "let's put it in context" argument.

I am personally slow to trust the "let's put it in context!" argument because it is only ever deployed against people who want to remove the unique, commemorative and pride-of-place monuments to men who lead a treasonous war to ensure the perpetuation and spread of a system of torture rape and murder.
I have never seen the "let's put it in context" argument in the wild, alone. Maybe people were arguing for contextual memorials next to statues of Lee and Jackson for the hundred or so years they were up, but I have only ever seen them deployed against people who think commemorative pro-treason, war and slavery monuments are not great.

I personally would trust such arguments more if they were made to people who say "We built this country. If you don't like it, there are plenty of other non-white countries you can go to!", who consider Lee and others significant national heroes, brave warriors for a righteous cause - the cause of slavery, murder, rape and war.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:44 PM on May 24, 2017 [12 favorites]


When I read this the other day, I knew nothing of Mitch Landrieu, but was blown away by the speech. Until this minute I assumed these were the words of a black man. I don't know if it's good or even why it was surprising to discover the writer was white. Memo to self: In discussions of race matters making assumptions is fraught with peril. But it is a remarkable speech.

Personally, I like the idea of civic governments officially stating we will no longer maintain or protect these monuments. Let the people deface, adorn, steal, or destroy this monument, but this monument no longer has any affiliation with the city and effective immediately, no tax dollars will be used in association with it, not even the cost of removal.

I'd like to think it would be a public canvas for art and graffiti and protests as it slowly decays and breaks down. Or perhaps weeds would grow silently around it, and eventually trees, as Lee becomes less and less worthy of respect.

Of course, people on both sides would be killing each around it within weeks, but I prefer my naive little world over the real one.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:13 PM on May 24, 2017 [7 favorites]


Personally, I like the idea of civic governments officially stating we will no longer maintain or protect these monuments. Let the people deface, adorn, steal, or destroy this monument, but this monument no longer has any affiliation with the city and effective immediately, no tax dollars will be used in association with it, not even the cost of removal.

I'd like to think it would be a public canvas for art and graffiti and protests as it slowly decays and breaks down. Or perhaps weeds would grow silently around it, and eventually trees, as Lee becomes less and less worthy of respect.


I actually saw something like this on the coast of Ireland once. It's been almost twenty years, and I didn't know what it was then, or where it was now. I can't even remember which side of the border we were on; we'd been on a day trip North.

There was some kind of Victorian general, admiral or hero, standing in the middle of an abandoned plaza of marble, not very close to anywhere on foot. It was thick with weeds and covered with graffiti. We'd pulled over to take a picture of the view, and I wanted to go up and inspect it for plaques, but my dad refused to let me. He was afraid there might be some trap set in the bad old days. It was a haunting sight, an utter refutation of British sovereignty over hearts and minds. Or perhaps it just meant that the local parks budget was cut to the bone. But it definitely looked like the former.

We have too many wild fools to let nature take its course with Confederate monuments right now. Perhaps later. Right now, we just have to try to behave like a civilized country one day at a time, while we still can.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:31 PM on May 24, 2017 [6 favorites]


I wish we could look at these ugly parts of our history and be maybe not quite so quick to remove them; not be so anxious to symbolically send them down the memory hole.

It is immensely thoughtless to describe the intent of those fighting to remove these vile things as "symbolic" -- as if the presence of these memorials to a racist regime doesn't cause real harm, and doesn't act as reinforcement of and incitement to real racial animus.

Your argument amounts to: in a perfect world we'd keep these around and everyone would somberly remember our awful history and make sure to never repeat it. Those of us over here in the real world are a lot more concerned with the fact that these monuments are often having the opposite effect -- softening the truth of our dark history, and giving rise to fond "good old days" sentiments in a population that doesn't need any more excuses for escalating racism.
posted by tocts at 6:49 PM on May 24, 2017 [12 favorites]


Emperor SnooKloze, I guarantee you that if those statues were left standing and a call was put out to artists to "recontextualize" them so that they reveal our "darkest history" - the same motherfudgers who protested taking down the statues would protest recontextualizing them just as loudly and violently. Do not be fooled that the people who most ardently want Confederate statues to remain give a shit about history. They want the very real, very large, very prominently displayed heroes of white supremacy to retain their place of honor. If anyone tried to change the context of those statues -- say, hung signs around their granite necks that said "Traitors to the Union" - "Owner of 200 slaves, Raped 20 women, Sold Babies" - the riots would be even worse.

I applaud Mayor Landrieu for his beautiful, eloquent speech and for doing the right thing. It was a long time coming.
posted by pjsky at 6:50 PM on May 24, 2017 [18 favorites]


I think Emperor SnooKloze's comment responding to the criticism was deleted so as much as I'd enjoy the robust debate, maybe best to not to have a one-sided argument.
posted by lalex at 6:53 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


I have mixed feelings toward the monument removals. Toward two of them yeah fuck 'em, toward another well he was a bonafide son of New Orleans, same as not-going-to-be-removed-genocidal-maniac Andrew Jackson, and to the other well it's done now so whatever.

But I do believe that when you remove the monuments that your ancestors laid, however wrong they were to do so, you give up the right to protest when your descendents remove yours. That's the way it goes. It's a bad precedent for that reason, if no other. I thought the original solution to the horrible Liberty Monument was perfect; they put it in the middle of a bunch of pay parking lots where nobody would ever see it unless they deliberately sought it out, and applied plaques to it explaining the problems with its origin. The only way they can make it more obscure now is by running it through a rock crusher.

Also, the group that led the charge on this, "Take 'em down NOLA," isn't satisfied and issued a new list of over a hundred more monuments and street names they think need to go. At which point it really is about some weird kind of 1984-ish unthink. These folks are crazypants. In 2017 it isn't some kind of honor that we have a street named Jefferson Davis Parkway, It's a fucking important street and that's been its name for over a hundred years. Nobody fucking remembers why it's named that, but when you change it it will create chaos for years as people go looking for it and can't find Anthony Weiner Boulevard or whatever else it got named instead.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:12 PM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


It is immensely thoughtless to describe the intent of those fighting to remove these vile things as "symbolic" -- as if the presence of these memorials to a racist regime doesn't cause real harm, and doesn't act as reinforcement of and incitement to real racial animus.

Agreed - below are the comments of a friend, an Indian American NOLA native raising her adopted black daughter there, on just this point (written for a related FB discussion):

Monuments often have personal meaning - as (the soon to be former) Lee Circle has for all New Orleanians who have traversed it, have their memories intertwined with that place, with that landscape. But the whole point of monuments is their collective significance. The monument of Lee was never a beacon for the whole city, nor was it meant to be. It was a reminder of the social order of the South, and for us to know our place in it. So, Mint Julips and "culture" for some. Genocide, rape, torture, and murder for others.

Through your Monument Mourning, you are arguing that your personal nostalgia should have more weight than society's ability to recognize and name the criminality and immorality that the Confederacy fought to uphold. The statue of Lee is an homage to white supremacy (known to some as "Heritage"), and a call to uphold it.

As a parent of a black child (and as a brown person from a colonized place), I am grateful for one less monument whose significance I get to explain to my favorite tiny curious person - to honor someone who fought to continue to enslave people like her. If you are white, I want to ask you to imagine doing that (repeatedly) with your own child. How do you think it would affect them? How would it affect you?

Black children can expect and, by every measure, will receive, substantially worse treatment than their white peers within the educational system, the healthcare system, the policing and justice systems, the housing and financial markets, in terms of their prospective employment and earnings. Hell, they will have a harder time on Tinder and Grinder. Parents of black children already get to explain why this is and try their best to prepare their children to navigate these evidence-based realities.

One less white supremacist being honored in the street is actually the smallest possible gesture available that we can bestow on these children.

One less statue doesn't change these realities. But it begins to approach the truth. There has never been truth and reconciliation in this country, so we keep recycling white supremacy into different iterations, instead of dismantling it (Jim Crow! Mass Incarceration!). We can't begin to face white supremacy without truth telling. And most Americans (of all backgrounds) are not taught the fullness of the truth about the founding of this country or how it prospered. Most aren't taught what slavery entailed, or how it persists in different forms today. Taking down Lee is simply acknowledging these truths.

So, today, I am happily drinking a glass of wine to this tiny gesture of dignity afforded to me and mine. But along with this joy, there is the sadness of knowing that so many friends and acquaintances cannot let go of these monuments with good grace.

I am disappointed that so many people whom I respect in New Orleans, neighbors and fellow citizens, cannot celebrate this moment, or at least NOT make their feelings as white people the center of this story (a story about it being so profitable to enslave black people, that white people were willing to kill their countrymen so they wouldn't have to stop torturing, raping, and killing black people).

It is a painful bellwether for how far we have yet to go. It is 2017, and we still can't say in unison,"Because we recognize slavery is a crime against humanity, let's no longer glorify those who fought for it".

posted by ryanshepard at 7:26 PM on May 24, 2017 [29 favorites]


But I do believe that when you remove the monuments that your ancestors laid, however wrong they were to do so, you give up the right to protest when your descendents remove yours. That's the way it goes. It's a bad precedent for that reason, if no other.

Maybe ... but name ONE good thing about the continued existence of those statues in any other context but a Civil War museum, or the veneration of ANY symbol of the Confederacy, in today's US. It's still divisive and hurtful, and still a symbol of Southern defiance of the Union victory. Whitewashing the Confederacy as something that was once grand, or as being symbolic of what might have been good and noble about the South... nope.

It's possible to separate what is worth celebrating about the US South from what was truly wrong. The Confederacy was wrong.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:30 PM on May 24, 2017 [10 favorites]


But I do believe that when you remove the monuments that your ancestors laid, however wrong they were to do so, you give up the right to protest when your descendents remove yours. That's the way it goes. It's a bad precedent for that reason, if no other.

I mean, if they're removing them because they represent something people no longer support, especially if it's because most people recognize how wrong it was, I'm all for future generations doing so.

Do you think the Germans should have left up all the Nazi monuments? Should there be a big statue of Hitler, since he was the leader of the country and all? They have by no means whitewashed their history, instead they've moved it into museums and put it in context, which is a good reaction. Just leaving up things erected to celebrate Nazi or Confederate ideology is not the way to go.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:37 PM on May 24, 2017 [23 favorites]


Not to argue, Artful Codger. But the, well, whatever.

There is a monument on the National Mall to a man who not only owned slaves, he calculated that the greatest profit he received from his business was from the procreation and sale of his slaves, and that the growing of crops was a relatively poor endeavour. And so he kept doing it. That man was Thomas Jefferson.

There is another monument on the National Mall to a man who owned slaves, and did not free them upon his death but instead left them to his wife, who subsequently freed them because she was afraid of what they might do to her in the unbalanced situation of wanting freedom. That man was George Washington.

When do we call for their monuments to come down, sir?
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:40 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Do you think the Germans should have left up all the Nazi monuments?

This is a very interesting question. History denies the true answer to us because we pretty much bombed out all the Nazi monuments so there weren't any to tear down Saddam-style when the Allies and Soviets rolled over Germany. But if there had been a standing statue of Adolf, yeah, what to do with it?

I'd say remove it to a place between three pay parking lots where nobody would ever see it unless they really wanted to, and apply plaques to its base explaining what an asshole the person pictured is. Which, wait a minute, is exactly what we did to the horrible Liberty Monument to make it so obscure nobody knew what the hell it even was until "Take 'em down NOLA" put it in the fucking spotlight again. DON'T DO THAT, OKAY?
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:49 PM on May 24, 2017


Bringer Tom you are not wrong about Washington and Jefferson being slave owners. But there is a huge difference between those memorials on the National Mall and every single Confederate statue ever erected. On the National Mall Washington and Jefferson are honored for their contributions to the establishment of the country, which are many and good. Nearly every single Confederate statue in America had one primary purpose when it was erected. To glorify white supremacy. Confederate statues were put up all over the South in the Jim Crow era. They were meant to be intimidating to blacks. That is why they need to go away. Be put in a museum, given "context" and left to the dustbin of history.

Should the memorials in DC mention Washington and Jefferson's slave owning history? Yes, they probably should. But to compare them to Confederate statues is disingenuous.
posted by pjsky at 8:01 PM on May 24, 2017 [35 favorites]


Well, just as homicidal Andrew Jackson is not going away because of his role in the Battle of 1812, one could argue that Beauregard is a son of New Orleans who was at best a mediocre general in the Civil War and went on to his greatest success as a son of New Orleans and Louisiana after the war. Which gets back to my biggest complaint about this kerfluffle: These things are not all the same.

But to the "Take 'em down NOLA" folks they are all the same because those folks are crazypants and they really do want to erase history. They've given us a list of what's next and nobody sane thinks it's, well, sane.
posted by Bringer Tom at 8:09 PM on May 24, 2017


But to compare them to Confederate statues is disingenuous.

No, it is exact. The things are equivalent, the only difference is scale. Slavery only became a Confederate thing when there was a Confederacy. Before that, it was a United States of America thing. And Jefferson and Washington were prime symbols of it.
posted by Bringer Tom at 8:12 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


But I do believe that when you remove the monuments that your ancestors laid, however wrong they were to do so, you give up the right to protest when your descendents remove yours.

You won't have the right to protest when your descendants remove monuments you laid down in any case, because at that point you will be dead.

No, it is exact.

Name all of the wars Washington and Jefferson fought in that had the explicitly stated aim of preserving slavery.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:18 PM on May 24, 2017 [17 favorites]


A powerful speech. And an excellent historical contextualization of the statues, as well:
The historic record is clear, the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This 'cult' had one goal - through monuments and through other means - to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone's lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city. Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous 'corner-stone speech' that the Confederacy's "cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears... I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us. And make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago -- we we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and a more perfect union.
posted by darkstar at 8:22 PM on May 24, 2017 [7 favorites]


Name all of the wars Washington and Jefferson fought in that had the explicitly stated aim of preserving slavery.

The Revolutionary War
posted by Automocar at 8:22 PM on May 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


I rather doubt you are going to be able to show me that explicit statement.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:24 PM on May 24, 2017


It was a joke. But you know, the Revolutionary War was a reactionary elitist war spearheaded by rich white men who gained their wealth by enslaving black people and stealing their labor, so, six of one, etc
posted by Automocar at 8:28 PM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


. Nobody fucking remembers why it's named that, but when you change it it will create chaos for years

Yeah, that's what they said about all those MLK Ways too. Good to see which side you're on.
posted by Etrigan at 8:38 PM on May 24, 2017 [22 favorites]


This speech was a great one, so specific and long on reason, eloquently posited. Such a good thing.
posted by Oyéah at 8:43 PM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


When do we call for their monuments to come down, sir?

I guess when they participate in a treasonous war against the country they founded.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:44 PM on May 24, 2017 [20 favorites]


But you know, the Revolutionary War was a reactionary elitist war spearheaded by rich white men who gained their wealth by enslaving black people and stealing their labor, so, six of one, etc

Were you under the impression that people back in England didn't own slaves and weren't making money off slave labor at the same time?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:54 PM on May 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


Newport, RI, the city in which I was born, takes preserving Historical Architecture seriously. Yes, there are the Gilded Age Mansions, yes there are the 17th Century Churches (Trick question: from what part of Britain did the Baptists and Quakers flee from to live in freedom in the New World? Answer: Massachusetts.)

There is also desirable real-estate, right on Newport Harbor, where the Mega-Wealthy dock their Mega-Yachts. Almost all of it is ultra-upscale shopping and dining in historic buildings and tasteful new development.

And then there's the Museum the Newport Historical Society operates right in the middle of this, right at the apex of the storied Brick Market. Yes, there's quaint maritime trivia, yes, there's rousing history of RI as a rebel Democracy from the very start (Thanks, Anne!), and a place where Jews and Hindus and Muslims could be in complete legality! (Thanks, Dr. Clarke and Roger!)

There is also always on display our history as North America's most notorious slave market in the 18th and early 19th CE.

As a proud Rhode Islander and a Born Newport Local, I am more than OK with this. This is something worth remembering, and mourning.

Never again. Because we remember.

Those statues to the traitors in The South? They all look like heroes rather than traitor slavers. I myself would be more than OK with a statue of Nicholas Brown holding a pair of shackles with a cruel sneer in the heart of Brown University. I'd be well pleased by it.

I am embarrassed by parts of my history. Deeply. I am in no less way emboldened and re-affirmed by other parts of my history (Hi, Anne! Hi, Dr. Clarke! Hi, Roger Williams, on his midnight boat trip to meet the Quakers!)

Here's the deal, tho... as Americans, Louisiana can claim Hutchinson, Clarke and Williams as their own, too! I claim Washington as my own, even tho he was a Virginian!

I'm a Patriotic American. That might be the difference.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:04 PM on May 24, 2017 [6 favorites]


That man was George Washington.

When do we call for their monuments to come down, sir?


When it's time. When the contributions they made to American democracy are outweighed by the values that they supported, but our descendants oppose. I would put it this way: the foundation underpinning the American experiment was that government is of, by, and for the people. If the people say, a thousand years from now -- ten thousand years from now -- a hundred years from now - ten years from now: 'their support of slavery outweighs their contributions, ten generations ago,' then I fundamentally trust those people to make that decision, then. Today, I would oppose removing a statue of Washington; but I live today. I do not live the lives my (hypothetical) great-grandchildren will lead. We built and maintain, today, the government and the society that will let them decide, tomorrow, what should best be done -- for themselves, as they dictate, and not as we dictate to them across the span of decades or centuries.

You don't have to look very far back at all to see names that were once derided or praised now treated with an everyday nonchalance: does Napoleon inspire the fear he once did? Does Caesar inspire the adulation? They do not. And so, too, has even Washington's importance -- and the facets of his importance -- shifted, several times, since he lived, and since he died. Doubtless it will shift again. It may be that the horror of slavery recedes into the past sufficiently that there is never a need to tear down monuments to Washington; or it may be that there appears such a need in the next century. When and if there is a call for that, we can -- whoever 'we' are, at that point -- debate it then. The idea of considering it should not be anathema to Americans, even if we, now, decide against it (and I would; I would favor contextualization, for Washington, like that at the President's House Memorial in Philadelphia, which foregrounds Washington's slave-ownership in the physical view of Independence Hall -- from some perspectives.)

But the unfortunate fact is that even contextualization can get pushback; look, there, to ongoing debates about how to interpret Jefferson's legacy at Monticello. The way Jefferson's life -- and the lives he controlled -- are conveyed to the public has shifted enormously in just the last half-century. Those shifts were not without controversy.

But those shifts we warranted. More shifts may also be warranted. In representing history, we represent both a narrative of who were were and how we got here -- but we also create a narrative about who we are now, by defining what aspects of our past define us. There is only so much public space. There is only so much time in a history class. There are only so many hours on the history channel. The process of telling history is a continual reinvention, in which we discard that which is unimportant to us and add that which is newly important -- an act of prioritization moreso than erasure -- and in which we are forced, by the ceaseless push of time, to incorporate more events, more people, more places into that ever-growing story, a story that sidelines some and lifts up others, in ways that the people living through events might not expect.

This part of Landrieu's speech says it better than I can:
We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city's history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations. And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people. In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals. We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Removing a monument is not an act of erasure; the Confederacy will not be wiped from the books. It is an act of creation: is an act of telling ourselves and our children what matters to us today. The reason we should not, now, tear down monuments to the founding fathers is not because we should, forevermore, leave them up -- it is because the message it would send today is a bad one. Democracy matters more than monuments.
posted by cjelli at 9:13 PM on May 24, 2017 [36 favorites]


2017, there is a small light still shining.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:23 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Washington retired as a man rather than died as a King. His relation with slavery, as a man of his time and place and position, must be remembered.

I still claim Washington as one of my founding fathers.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:37 PM on May 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


Washington retired as a man rather than died as a King. His relation with slavery, as a man of his time and place and position, must be remembered.

He was a persistant and dedicated owner of other human beings. He had contemporaries (e.g.) who saw the evil of this.

I am a nearly lifelong Washingtonian, and I am fine with the razing or rededication of the Washington Monument.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:28 PM on May 24, 2017 [7 favorites]


Honestly, if a group of people actually wanted to tear down monuments to Jefferson and Washington and this wasn't just a complete hypothetical/attempt at a rhetorical trap, I wouldn't stand in their way. Like the line from Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address goes, "Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

Washington and Jefferson (along with virtually all of the Founding Fathers) did incalculable, horrifying evil to dozens of people personally and millions indirectly. That they are not solely liable for those crimes isn't really an excuse, and any good they were able to do was in leisure time granted by the blood and sweat of people who had no choice in providing it and who were compensated with violence, rape, and torture. I don't think anyone seriously disputes the basic facts here. However, there's no significant movement to tear down monuments to Jefferson or Washington, and in the real world today, there are statues in majority black cities celebrating the achievements of, for example, the First Grand Wizard of the KKK, despite the clear wishes of the residents of those cities that they be removed. We can worry about those first.
posted by Copronymus at 10:33 PM on May 24, 2017 [28 favorites]


When do we call for their monuments to come down, sir?

I suppose it was inevitable this tread was going to be warped to hell by a "I'm just saying" guy. though it could have been worse, I suppose, it could have been a walrus.
posted by happyroach at 11:30 PM on May 24, 2017 [18 favorites]


I think it's ok to ignore that guy at this ooint.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:03 AM on May 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Black children can expect and, by every measure, will receive, substantially worse treatment than their white peers within the educational system, the healthcare system, the policing and justice systems, the housing and financial markets, in terms of their prospective employment and earnings.

If one fixes one of those systems the others can follow by using the fixed system to be the anvil the others are beaten into shape with. Infographics and less than $5 million spent trying to fix a well-broken system can be found here.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:24 AM on May 25, 2017


and this wasn't just a complete hypothetical/attempt at a rhetorical trap

Please do not get the idea that bringing up Washington and Jefferson was hypothetical or a rhetorical trap. Bring 'em Down NOLA has scheduled a press conference this afternoon to discuss the next round of monuments, streets, and schools they want removed and renamed. Having gotten the nose of their camel into our tent they've made it quite plain they want to upend the whole thing. They really are Orewellian assholes who want to erase history.

We cannot erase and should not forget the fact that NOLA was one of the most prominent slave markets in North America. It is impossible to remember the history of the city without including people who did horrible things and made their fortunes in horrible ways. But people are not pure good and evil, and it is possible for people to do horrible and noble things at the same time.

The Revolutionary War was fought to preserve slavery; this was an explicit goal all the parties involved had to agree on in order to forge the Union. Abolition had to be taken off the table for the Revolution to proceed. And all those men fought a treasonous war against the nation of their birthright in order to form the one they would make. Those are things that happened, and we have monuments to those men right across the pool from Abe Lincoln, and those monuments do not depict them as sneering monsters holding forth manacles and whips.

You can make a case against these four monuments; Mayor Landriew did just that in the OP, and while I see a bit more political knob-polishing in that speech than a non-local might it is valid and I'm not all that upset so far. But my real objection to all this will become a lot more apparent this afternoon. The people behind this are lying when they pretend to be reasonable. This really was the first step toward erasing every little bit of history they don't like. And that's an attitude I can respect to a certain extent if you're honest about it (which is why I favorited a couple of comments above suggesting that maybe refiguring the Washington and Jefferson memorials would be acceptable). But Take 'em Down NOLA has made their case so far by pretending to be something they really aren't, and I am not cool with that.
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:02 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


As a fellow white southerner, I have no problem with calls to rename every road, county, and city named for a slave holding traitor. Every time I have to drive on a Jefferson Davis Boulevard or see a Georgia license plate from "Jeff Davis County" (It couldn't just be Davis County, because we had one of those already), it makes my blood boil. I want to sandblast those assholes off the side of Stone Mountain, which is an amazing granite outcrop in a beautiful state park that is completely defaced with monuments to the confederacy. I wholly support anyone who wants to eliminate every name everywhere. I don't think that's an extreme opinion at all. We should not celebrate traitors.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:23 AM on May 25, 2017 [13 favorites]


Take em down NOLA didn't file the original nuisance claim, did they? They just mobilized people around it. (They also don't have the funding support Landrieu mobilized, what, with the Welcome Table events? alongside those events?)

I don't see how there will be more monuments gone, because the original nuisance complaint was tightly written for a specific historical period. Although, word is that you can remove Jackson's head pretty easily....

LEH discussion of the four lost-cause monuments
posted by eustatic at 5:26 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


In 2017 it isn't some kind of honor that we have a street named Jefferson Davis Parkway, It's a fucking important street and that's been its name for over a hundred years. Nobody fucking remembers why it's named that, but when you change it it will create chaos for years as people go looking for it and can't find Anthony Weiner Boulevard or whatever else it got named instead.

My god, won't someone think of the fucking racists.

Funny you should mention Weiner, a New Yorker: New York renames streets, highways and even bridges all the damn time. The Interborough parkway has become the Jackie Robinson. The Queensboro bridge is also known as the 59th Street bridge and is now known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. The West Side Highway is now the Joe DiMaggio Highway. Lenox Avenue was renamed Malcolm X Boulevard a few years back. The Belt Parkway used to be three separate, interconnected highways: the Shore Parkway, the Southern Parkway (not to be confused with the Southern State Parkway) and the Laurelton Parkway. The Triborough bridge is now the Robert F. Kennedy bridge.

All of these are "fucking important" highways and bridges. Each probably see a hell of a lot more traffic than the Jefferson Davis Parkway.
And now they all have new names. Big whoop.

It doesn't cause disruptions. It doesn't cause chaos. The city informs everyone and they go on with their lives. It's not like the streets, bridges or highways have been permanently rerouted. It may cause momentary confusion, but really, who gives a damn? And with GPS, drivers probably don't notice all that much anyway.

Davis was a slave owner and apologist. President of the Confederacy and all that it stood for. He fought for the South to continue owning people. You know what will happen when that parkway's renamed? Human decency and civilization will get a small win, African Americans don't have to live in a city where slavers are honoured with a fucking parkway named after them, people will continue to call it whatever they like, and in a couple of generations the people who live there will call it something else.

"Chaos." Give me a fucking break.
posted by zarq at 5:37 AM on May 25, 2017 [50 favorites]


That said, the original nuisance claim included more of the confederate monuments on *angela Davis parkway, and renaming Davis Parkway after a Xavier professor, Norman Francis.

So if Take Em Down NOLA wants to hold the mayor to his original plan to honor Norman Francis, and even include changing the name of Robt E Lee Blvd, I would support them.

The real and low-key struggle, in my mind, is with the statue of Judge White at the LA Supreme Court. Chief Justice Johnson has countered the statue by displaying the original Plessy v Ferguson documents inside the museum. I know that the statue was put up at the same time as the Lost Cause monuments...

But the nuisance ordinance argument would be more difficult for the White statue, since the Judges association, or whomever erected it, didn't leave as much a paper trail claiming that they were erecting a statue to Judge White for his role in the Plessy decision. The dedication and the inscription on the monument is less "remember to hate black people, y'all" and more "look at this great Louisianan who accomplished great things."

Also I'm not sure if the city has control over the state supreme court grounds. Also, the Plessy and Ferguson foundation probably would prefer that the Plessy site receive more attention than take away the prominence of some justice no one knows about anyway.
posted by eustatic at 5:45 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


At least one of the monuments that people were trying to protect was an explicit glorification of racial violence and an endorsement of White supremacy. The monuments' defenders are every bit as radical as the Take 'Em Down folks, but they're privileged because they're on the side of the status quo. I can see why some people are equivocal about the Robert E Lee statue, but given a choice between protecting nostalgia and people I will go with the people, every time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:46 AM on May 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to imagine the amount of hatred and vitriol that comes from decades spent immersed in the Lost Cause, neo-Confederate mindset that compels someone to see PoC that are surrounded by hundreds of reminders of the reasons why they're still treated as second-class citizens (when they're lucky enough to be considered citizens or even human much of the time) as the oppressor. That compels them to use words like "Orwellian" and "censorious" and "1984-unthink" to describe getting rid of centuries of rewritten history and reverse the erasure of large swaths of people and their stories. You have to wonder--"marvel" just doesn't sound right--at the mindset that looks at a city that is 60% African-American, and rages that the people who are still under the weight of slavery's effects 150 years later want to get rid of hundreds of dedications to white supremacy, and not that there are hundreds of dedications to white supremacy in the first place.

I would call it "chutzpah," but that still implies at least a shred of honor and nobility in the defense, when this is something that is completely antithetical to both of those concepts. It's not even a genteel kind of racism. It's raw anger at having white supremacy challenged, a sneering kind of anti-intellectualism against four centuries of a reality that they refuse to accept. It's what brings us textbooks that claim that Lincoln is the real villain, and that slaves were "workers" and "immigrants." And that it's happening in a time where the Attorney General is a proud Confederate sympathizer who is thisclose to outright saying he wants to bring us back to the days of Jim Crow, and where neo-Nazis are proudly walking the streets, is at the very least shameful and disgusting.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:46 AM on May 25, 2017 [25 favorites]


This really was the first step toward erasing every little bit of history they don't like.

Refusing to honor traitors and enemies isn't erasing history. DC has plenty of war memorials that aren't also statues of Ho Chi Minh, King George, or Hitler.
posted by beerperson at 5:48 AM on May 25, 2017 [17 favorites]


Guys, I just learned that if we take action on the most egregious and unarguable bits of racist historical propaganda, we'll forevermore be required by rhetorical internet law to take millions of gallons of white-out to the pages of every history book ever. How could I have been so blind? We have to stop this madness now, before it's too late!
posted by tocts at 5:50 AM on May 25, 2017 [17 favorites]


No discussion of these monuments is complete without this inscription, which reveals them for what they truly are: not monuments to some vague sense of "history" or "sacrifice", but monuments to the victory of white supremacist terrorism. They're not even truly "Civil War" or "Confederate" monuments, they're monuments to the defeat of Reconstruction, which is to say that they're monuments to Jim Crow segregation.

Tear them all down.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:54 AM on May 25, 2017 [20 favorites]


Please do not get the idea that bringing up Washington and Jefferson was hypothetical or a rhetorical trap. Bring 'em Down NOLA has scheduled a press conference this afternoon to discuss the next round of monuments, streets, and schools they want removed and renamed.

Okay, first, it's Take 'Em Down NOLA. But beyond your evident contempt for them that won't even let you learn their name, you are lying when you say that bringing Washington and Jefferson into this isn't hypothetical. Here is their list. I can't find anything there named after George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. Until they get there, you don't get to play this slippery-slope bullshit.
posted by Etrigan at 5:55 AM on May 25, 2017 [16 favorites]


Nobody fucking remembers why it's named that

So you're saying everyone in New Orleans is a prize idiot? As a defense of these?

but when you change it it will create chaos for years as people go looking for it and can't find Anthony Weiner Boulevard or whatever else it got named instead.

Oh, yes, obviously everyone who objects to naming things after confederates is so morally depraved that their alternatives will be people (probably) doing prison time for exposing themselves to minors. Good job.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:02 AM on May 25, 2017 [7 favorites]


Pro-tip: if someone is arguing that we should take down a memorial to an avowed racist white supremacist traitorous slaver and your first thought for who they would rather memorialize is "lol probably this sex offender guy instead because he's a democrat and obviously this is all just made up hurt feelings by the democrats", maybe consider that you're lying to yourself and others as to why you're angry about removing the name of the aforementioned racist white supremacist traitorous slaver from public streets and memorials.
posted by tocts at 6:10 AM on May 25, 2017 [16 favorites]


Oh, yes, obviously everyone who objects to naming things after confederates is so morally depraved that their alternatives will be people (probably) doing prison time for exposing themselves to minors. Good job.

Haven't you heard about the millions of South Africans who have been wandering around for 23 years, unable to find roads, airports, and even entire cities because of all the horrible renaming of things? Obviously the real problem is that anti-apartheid activistsfascists are out to besmirch the good names of people like Hendrik Verwoerd and Daniel Malan.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:21 AM on May 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


The Revolutionary War was fought to preserve slavery; this was an explicit goal all the parties involved had to agree on in order to forge the Union.

I'm not saying this is wrong, but I'd sure like to see a cite that preserving slavery was an explicit goal of the American Revolution and not just some compromise that was hacked out to get everyone on the same page. This goal is quite clearly stated by the Confederate secessionists. Are there similar statements by the American secessionists?
posted by slkinsey at 6:21 AM on May 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Bringer Tom - I'm no fan of extreme "political correctness" and revisionism, nor do I think it right that people dead and gone can be fairly judged using our current context and ignoring their own.

Nonetheless, they can be judged easily on their aims and results. There is a clear difference between Washington & Jefferson and the icons of the Confederacy. The former laid some pretty good foundations for the country called the US of A, which I think we agree was ultimately a Good Thing; the latter had the aim of breaking up the US because they weren't willing to move forward with the rest of the civilized world at that point in ending slavery. And they failed, to boot.

btw I didn't say that those statues or the people they honour were to be expunged from memory. Just that they don't rate the current positions of prominence and the honour that those positions imply.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:31 AM on May 25, 2017


"I read this and immediately asked, is this guy going to be President?"

Speaking as a New Orleanian: I wish you wouldn't say such things. He's been an okay mayor, I mean I voted for him twice, but I can't imagine him as president.

"In 2017 it isn't some kind of honor that we have a street named Jefferson Davis Parkway, It's a fucking important street and that's been its name for over a hundred years. Nobody fucking remembers why it's named that, but when you change it it will create chaos for years as people go looking for it"

I live on a small street called Hagan Avenue. It's a tiny little one-way, nothing grand, and it has no reason to be called an avenue that I can see. Except that the entire thing that's currently known as Jefferson Davis Parkway used to be called Hagan Avenue. I just live on the tiny remnant that didn't get renamed for some reason.

I am firmly in Camp Rename It. I don't give two shits if it causes some confusion for a whole year. I'm guessing that Mr. John Hagan might not have been the coolest guy either (though nowhere near as much of a traitorous shit as Jeff Davis) so I'm fine with it being renamed to Leah Chase Blvd or whatever, even if they extend the change to the part of the street I live on.

So speaking as someone whose residence sits somewhere between 'tangential to' and 'directly affected by' your suggestion that we leave that man's name in place ... no. Sorry, hell no. The statues coming down was a good first step, but we've still got a long walk in front of us. Google Maps will get the naming confusion sorted out in due time, don't worry.
posted by komara at 6:43 AM on May 25, 2017 [20 favorites]


I live in New Orleans, and I am super proud of Mitch for this speech. It will, I hope, bring a positive bit of closure to what has been a really nasty and disappointing few months. It has been appalling to see what this monument issue has brought to light about a lot of people in the south, and elsewhere. The racist, confederate-flag-waving, "the south will rise again" crowd has crawled out of the woodwork and it has been gross to behold. Even some of my own family from up the road a ways have been posting dumb shit on social media about how Mitch is ruining New Orleans and taking down statues of white people is racist and blah blah blah.

One saving grace for me has been that the strongest opposition seems to come from people that live in adjoining parishes and the 'burbs. Every person that I know here in the city supported the removal of the monuments. So while it hurts my heart to know that there is still so much ignorance and racism in the south, I'm at least comforted by the fact that this city where I chose to live has done the right thing.
posted by tryniti at 7:02 AM on May 25, 2017 [10 favorites]


Last year at the National Council for Public History, the final session of the conference was on what to do with the plethora of Confederate monuments that litter the nation's landscape. The majority of the historians present were in favor of removal or at the very least extremely obvious signage that re-interpreted the monuments but much to our surprise the individuals on the panel were against the idea.

One speaker suggested that politicians were unwilling to spend the political capital to remove statues and that most municpalities are unwilling to spend the actual capital to remove statues to something that "doesn't impact most people."

As you can see from the Storify of the session, that didn't sit well with most of the audience.

I'm glad that a year later, this is becoming a reality. As a descendent of one of the assholes who had a statue, I'm delighted to see it go down. As a Southerner who was fed the bread and butter of the Lost Cause at my grandmother's knee, I believe strongly that every statue that comes down, every road that is renamed, and every story that is told that reflects the violence, hate, and sheer evilness of slavery and Jim Crow is step in the right direction of undoing a horrible wrong. The only reason I, one of the indoctrinated, know about the horrors of slavery and the evil of Jim Crow is that I was educated on the topic by teachers and historians. Someone told me that Jefferson Davis wasn't a hero and showed me why. Someone corrected my understanding of why the Glorious Dead fought and showed me the proof. Leaving these monuments up to a lie makes the truth harder to see. For every one that comes down, we are one step closer to the country we should be.
posted by teleri025 at 7:28 AM on May 25, 2017 [25 favorites]


I kind of wish, to be honest, that we could take the monuments as a challenge: to make our history explicitly acknowledge the darkest bits of the American experiment and recontextualize them;

But surely there's no better way to recontextualize these monuments than to stick them in a museum exhibit about Jim Crow? And isn't that exactly what they intend to do with them?

There is a monument on the National Mall

The Washington and Jefferson memorials commemorate people who also did bad things. But were those monuments erected specifically to assert the rightness of the bad things they did? Were they erected specifically to say to black people, "White people own this country, stop trying to fight for equality"? No, they were not.
posted by straight at 7:54 AM on May 25, 2017 [11 favorites]


Wait so does no one remember who these people are or are we burying history we don't like? It can't be both.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:59 AM on May 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


That was a great speech, & it needs to be broadcast far & wide.

Count me in the Tear Them All Down camp. I'm a southerner & am tired of being lumped in with racist and abuse justifiers, because I'm anything but.

Streets don't give 2 shits what they are called. They still go where they go.

Humanity is much better served by preserving the dignity of each other and moving forward to a more civilized society. And if that means stepping on racists and abusers to get there, sign me up.
posted by yoga at 8:00 AM on May 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


Took me a while to really parse the backlash against the removal of the monuments. Their removal chips away at the entitlement of the folks who are protesting. And we know that entitled folks are loath to give their entitlement up.

I wonder if consigning them to invisibility is a little too easy, in the long run. I would like to find a way to engage my children in the nation's past, good and bad.

I realize that we're a long way down the thread from discussing this comment, but I think the point needs to be made that for anyone who is not a white male, seeing these monuments is constant microaggression (well, not so micro) in the lives of people who were and are the victims of that entitlement attitude.

Our children can be taught the truth about our past, the good and the bad, without being surrounded by these microaggressive reminders. Better they should be surrounded by reminders of our literal and moral triumphs, by things that don't celebrate entitlement.
posted by vignettist at 8:01 AM on May 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


I thought one of the most powerful parts of the speech addressed the impact of the statues on children:
Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl's eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?
posted by lalex at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


I just think it's worth having this text, which was on one of the monuments, in the thread in plain view:
United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.
You can read more here about the explicitly white supremacist aims of these statues.

So, by all means, we can have a discussion about what it means to have monuments to Washington and Jefferson, two men who were monstrous toward those they didn't recognize as fully human. What does it mean, that we're willing to overlook that evil when we retell our founding myths?

There are layers upon layers of denial about our history, and we have a long way to go before we've stripped all of them away. As a society, we aren't able to look at these monuments and judge their worth without the systematic devaluing of black experiences and black suffering getting in the way. As a society, we're not able to assess their accomplishments and their crimes without racism.

Asking why we don't just remove monuments to the founding fathers as some sort of gotcha just demonstrates how true this is. Oh, how obviously ridiculous!

But the work has begun. The layers are being peeled back. The statues removed in New Orleans were explicitly racist celebrations of white supremacy; we've finally reached a point where at least we can address that. Maybe someday we will want to address the implicit racism baked into monuments to Washington and Jefferson, too.

It is gross hypocrisy to suggest that you care about history and truth, and to scream and cry about "revisionism," when the monuments themselves are revisionist. It is gross hypocrisy to pretend you care about the suffering of black people, and then to ignore the little girl walking past the statue that celebrates her oppression.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:20 AM on May 25, 2017 [22 favorites]


And just to add, I'm not necessarily saying we should remove the monuments to Jefferson and Washington. It's not my place to pick the battles, and in any case it makes perfect sense to me to focus on removing confederate monuments, which are far more explicitly racist.

But the fact that many people think it's self-evidently unthinkable that we'd ever do such a thing is reflects a perspective on history that is skewed by racism.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:28 AM on May 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


When groups or classes or categories of people have been extraordinarily privileged for such a long time that they don't even notice that privilege, they often feel as though something is being taken away from them when similar privileges begin to accrue to other groups or classes or categories of people. All that is really happening here is that the thoughts and histories and politics of people of color are beginning to figure into the dialogue on these monuments, when previously that influence had been the privilege of a relatively narrow slice of white people. So, sure, I can see how a white Southerner who sees the statue of Robert E. Lee brought down might view that as "erasing history" and taking away something integral to his city. He certainly doesn't need to be a racist to feel that way. But the other way of looking at it is to say that it isn't "his" city, that it was never "his" city in the first place, and that he actually shares the city with many other people for whom the statue is intolerable. So nothing is actually being taken away from him. He still shares the same city he's always shared. It just so happens that a lot of his "co-owners" of the city weren't privileged to have a voice until recently, and that's the only thing that has actually changed. What is difficult, I think, is for the ostensibly non-racist white guy who would argue that these monuments are about "history and not hate," and is miffed that "history and culture would be erased" if that road he's always know as Jefferson Davis Parkway is renamed, to do the personal work necessary to understand that his reaction grows out of an extraordinary privilege that was founded in institutional racism, and that to argue in favor of denying the voices of these "co-owners" is effectively a racist argument. That can be a hard thing to see in the mirror for someone who is really just upset that something he's always known is going to be different from here on out.
posted by slkinsey at 8:36 AM on May 25, 2017 [14 favorites]


(As accidentally posted elsewhere:)

I was able to take my daughter to see them take Lee down (or at least attach the cables, it was a day long affair). As far as the purported risk of forgetting history, that half hour was a far more teachable moment for me and her than driving by the damned thing every day.

Locally, the whole thing has been a multi-part clinic in:

1) The remarkable range of disingenuous defenses which confederate apologists will give when you dare talk about their flags and statues
2) The power of how we experience public spaces
2) What it takes, beyond Saints games, to get some folks from out of town to dare visit the forbidding city
3) Avoiding comment sections
posted by gordie at 9:03 AM on May 25, 2017 [14 favorites]


I live in Orleans Parish and I work in the building next to the former site of the White League monument. I drive past the former site of the Jefferson Davis statue every day on my way to work. If I take the streetcar instead, I go past Lee Circle. I saw these damn things every day.
History is both complicated and very very simple. Monsters don't exist. No person thinks that they are a villain. Just because a politician established institutions that helped some people, does not erase the damage they did to a different group of people. Slavery is wrong, and we shouldn't glorify slave owners. If you care about history, you have to tell the whole truth. If you mention George Washington, you need to talk about slavery. Did you know he had dentures made from slaves' teeth?
We have monuments to these people, but to really know who they were you need to read their words. Read 'The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government' and tell me Davis didn't believe wholeheartedly in the enslavement of black people. Then imagine how you would feel if you were black and had to look at a shrine to him every day.
We have no monuments to Union soldiers that I know of, and hardly any markers relating to slavery apart from the one at Congo Square. If you care so much about history, were is your support for the creation of new monuments? Or do you only care about the ones of your ancestors?
posted by domo at 9:06 AM on May 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


Oh hey, here's some uplifting news about our city, our history, the monuments, and those who are leading our kids:

Crescent Leadership Academy Principal Nicholas Dean appeared in a video wearing rings associated with white nationalism and the Nazi movement.
In both the video and the podcast, Dean identifies himself as "Nick Andrews." He says straight off in the podcast that he works in a charter school that enrolls "majority African-American students."
posted by komara at 9:14 AM on May 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think the point needs to be made that for anyone who is not a white male, seeing these monuments is constant microaggression

I think the point that the above overlooks is that it's wrong to make assumptions based only on gender and race.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:26 AM on May 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's a microaggression to some of us white folks, too.
posted by domo at 9:48 AM on May 25, 2017


and to the other well it's done now so whatever.
I was thinking about the central role of the Battle of Gettysburg in our memory of the war when I recently read an essay by David G. Smith, "Race and Retaliation: The Capture of African Americans During the Gettysburg Campaign," part of Virginia's Civil War, edited by Peter Wallenstein and Bertram Wyatt-Brown. All but the last page and a few citations is available online through Google Books.

It's not a pleasant read.

During the Gettysburg Campaign, soldiers in the the Army of Northern Virginia systematically rounded up free blacks and escaped slaves as they marched north into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Men, women and children were all swept up and brought along with the army as it moved north, and carried back into Virginia during the army's retreat after the battle. While specific numbers cannot be known, Smith argues that the total may have been over a thousand African Americans. Once back in Confederate-held territory, they were returned to their former owners, sold at auction or imprisoned.

That part of the story is well-known. What makes Smith's essay important is the way he provides additional, critical background to this horrible event, and reveals both its extent across the corps and divisions of Lee's army, as well as the acquiescence to it, up and down the chain of command. The seizures were not, as is sometimes suggested, the result of individual soldiers or rouge troops acting on their own initiative, in defiance of their orders. The perpetrators were not, to use a more recent cliché, "a few bad apples." The seizure of free blacks and escaped slaves by the Army of Northern Virginia was widespread, systematic, and countenanced by officers up to the highest levels of command. This event, and others on a much smaller scale, were so much part of the army's operation that Smith argues they can legitimately be considered a part of the army's operational objective. Smith is blunt in his terminology for these activities; he calls them "slave raids."
Tell me again about the honorable Lee, a brave warrior fighting for a noble and ultimately doomed cause - the cause of slavery, murder, torture, rape and war.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:03 AM on May 25, 2017 [24 favorites]


This list is a good list. But it won't be worth pursuing if we don't focus on the task of who we want to put on the pedestal on Norman Francis Parkway. It's going to take enough of our energy as New Orleanians to keep Billy Nungesser from re-mounting Lee on top of the World Trade Center, or something awful like that.

(Actually, I heard they wanted Lee for the battleground state park upstate. that sounds about right.)

The list is not a list of Confederate monuments. It's not a list of "lost cause" monuments, although I would put the Judge White monument on that list.

It is a list of monuments to various forms of White Supremacy, and not just Jim Crow--the Bienville statue, for example, was not supposed to have the friar or the Bayou Goula person on the monument. The other figures were added as a statement that Bienville didn't found the city alone. Now, I really doubt the Bayou Goula ever wore plains headdress; so it's not to say that the statue isn't racist or that it couldn't be re-configured. The artist was neither a multi-culturalist nor a daughter of the confederacy. So, what do you do with a monument that is just the 'background' level of racist? A statue that was trying to represent a multiplicity in the origin of the city and failed is different than Jeff Davis or Lee or people who had nothing to do with the City, and are clearly only there to celebrate hatred of black new orleanians.

This is hair-splitting, but it is the nuanced argument that the Mayor's office carried through the Historic Preservation Board and City Council. And I don't think they want to even re-visit the current lost-cause rationale, given the attention.

The other part of the argument was the "nuisance" argument, which is that these things were being pissed or shat on enough, or graffiti'd so much that they cost too much to clean. Partly because Pike and Abrams are unknowns and out of the way, they haven't been so used as urinals like the others. So until that happens to Pike and Abrams, I don't think they will do it.

The education that Take Em Down NOLA has been engaged in about our history has been illuminating, though. The focus on John McDonough and Lusher is very interesting, and relevant in this time of charter schools--although, again, the mayor's office is unlikely to respond, given that they signaled the 'lost cause' frame early on. I think the focus on schools on the list reflects the participation of movement folks that have come to New Orleans to teach (/ salt?) in the charter schools.

The education about Tulane is very necessary, but Tulane is a private institution, very unlikely to re-configure, unless the student movements, like SOAR, are supported. The student groups haven't asked for Tulane to be re-named, so...enh.

But its the monuments like Pike and Abrams that were clearly within Landrieu's frame, but for the backlash and security expense, these could be removed next.

It would still be great to change the name to Norman Francis Parkway, too. I still think this is possible before the tricentennial.

At this point, it may be better to put energy into the discussion of what new consecrations we would erect in the name of equal opportunity and our future. That's going to be difficult enough, that i don't really care about Pike, and wouldn't blame the administration for forgetting about it.

post script
Someone mentioned the lack of Union memorials (or Native Guard memorials), and this is largely true.

There is a monument at Camp Parapet, where the "contraband" strategy was first effected en masse by Butler. Which, as a 'union southerner', I think of as the beginning of the end of the war--the beginning of enlisting southerners to fight the Confederacy, which is, ultimately, what won the war. ;)

It would be awesome to see Camp Parapet re-configured as a monument to the Native Guard, who stood against the Union and Farragut, before joining the Union as the 73rd regiment. That's some educational history, there.
posted by eustatic at 10:26 AM on May 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


When do we call for their monuments to come down, sir?

You act like this is somehow unthinkable. It will happen some day and when it does, it will be good.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:41 AM on May 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


"I am a nearly lifelong Washingtonian, and I am fine with the razing or rededication of the Washington Monument."

Rededication would be easy: it doesn't even look anything like him.
posted by jetsetsc at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


@lalez

Hope you all don't mind links that discuss monuments and Purchased Lives, the historical exhibit about New Orleans that has relevance for the entire United States. TLDR NPR story

Also Drs. Erin Greenwald and Rosanne Adderley's pubs, because they are rock stars.

Osborn: I’m just going to back up a little bit. As Molly said, we have a large free population of color, very educated, skilled....Going into the Civil War, they are part of the Native Guard, which is just a home guard, just to mostly parade, not to fight. When the city is occupied, when Butler comes in, then they joined the Union quickly. They had their own officers. They quickly change sides and 20,000 African American men fought for the Union from this state. That’s more than any of the states in the country. Where’s their memorial today? Where’s the memorial to Andre Cailloux or these other people who fought and died or …

Adderley: That’s literally almost half the entire free black population. It’s extraordinary. I think if you take white or black, Gregory and Justin probably know this, just percentage-wise for a demographic group to fight for Union at that percentage, it’s stunning.

Nystrom: A lot of white New Orleanians fight for the Union as well. There are several regiments of Unionist soldiers raised here. I mean this is an immigrant city. It had some demographic similarities to places like Boston.

posted by eustatic at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2017 [8 favorites]


In 2017 it isn't some kind of honor that we have a street named Jefferson Davis Parkway, It's a fucking important street and that's been its name for over a hundred years. Nobody fucking remembers why it's named that, but when you change it it will create chaos for years as people go looking for it and can't find Anthony Weiner Boulevard or whatever else it got named instead.

This is a completely nonsensical and honestly rather bizarre argument. Streets are renamed all the time. Hell, cities are renamed all the time. Many countries that were colonized by European powers in the 19th century have renamed their capital cities in the post-colonial era. Post-Communist countries have renamed their streets and cities after emerging from communism. People get used to it rapidly. It does not cause chaos. It's really not that hard and it's very common.
posted by armadillo1224 at 11:53 AM on May 25, 2017 [19 favorites]


I think the point needs to be made that for anyone who is not a white male, seeing these monuments is constant microaggression

I think the point that the above overlooks is that it's wrong to make assumptions based only on gender and race.


Did you read the speech linked in the post?

Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential?

Do you honestly think that the effect that seeing a monument like that every day has on you, as a white guy, is possibly the same as the effect it has on a child whose ancestors these men fought to own? Whose humanity they absolutely denied and went to war to deny? It seems like willful blindness to pretend that gender and race are irrelevant, in how we understand and interpret these monuments.
posted by armadillo1224 at 12:02 PM on May 25, 2017 [6 favorites]


"Except that the entire thing that's currently known as Jefferson Davis Parkway used to be called Hagan Avenue."

Haven't been able to stop thinking about this since I posted it earlier this morning so I went ahead and dug up a map from 1849 that shows Hagan Avenue long before it was Jefferson Davis Parkway.

Bonus: if you squint you can see how the roundabout that is now known as Lee Circle is still going by its original name of Tivoli Circle*.

My point here is the same point everyone else has made: renaming things in the past didn't break anything, and renaming them again won't break anything now.

[* to pre-empt whatever pedants may arrive: technically it is still officially known as Tivoli Circle and only the grounds within are called Lee Place and so there's never been anything officially named Lee Circle as far as the city's concerned]
posted by komara at 12:16 PM on May 25, 2017 [7 favorites]


Yeah, as far as monuments and place names are concerned, they are changed all the time.

Here in Phoenix, Piestewa Peak is one of the most prominent geographical features in the valley. It went by the name "Squaw Peak" for close to a hundred years. The freeway that runs beside it was called Squaw Peak Parkway. Many nearby place names and businesses derived their names from it. It was on all the local, state and federal maps.

As popular sensibilities developed enough to appreciate the derogatory nature of the name, it was finally changed in 2003 (and in the federal maps in 2008). Somehow, we all managed to survive the name change. There are now college students in my classes that are unaware it was ever called anything other than Piestewa Peak.

I like that the Washington Monument stands at the center of the National Mall. I could easily see it - as the focal center for our country - eventually becoming the Democracy Monument, or the Constitution Monument. Both of those are the true heart of the nation (aspirationally) and ultimately represent the best of what Washington himself dreamed of for the nation.

A name change is easy to handle. Especially if it's in the cause of liberty and justice.
posted by darkstar at 2:30 PM on May 25, 2017 [6 favorites]


Did you read the speech linked in the post?

Do you honestly think that the effect that seeing a monument like that every day has on you, as a white guy, is possibly the same as the effect it has on a child whose ancestors these men fought to own? Whose humanity they absolutely denied and went to war to deny? It seems like willful blindness to pretend that gender and race are irrelevant, in how we understand and interpret these monuments.


Yes I read the whole speech. Yes, I can well imagine that the presence of those statues would be egregious to people descended from slaves.

You apparently don't know how it can feel to have common ancestry with people who chose to own slaves.

And you still have no justification for telling us what someone feels or doesn't feel based solely on their race and gender.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:42 PM on May 25, 2017


We don't need to imagine anything. We have plenty of opportunities to listen to first-hand accounts of how other people feel. All we have to do is pay attention.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:59 PM on May 25, 2017


You apparently don't know how it can feel to have common ancestry with people who chose to own slaves.

One would be hard-pressed to find an American person of color who doesn't know how white people feel about pretty much anything. Especially POCs' struggles.
posted by Etrigan at 7:18 PM on May 25, 2017 [14 favorites]


Hell, my ancestors enslaved dozens of people and if I could I'd gladly swing a sledgehammer at one of these monuments. Sometimes, it's not about a ponderous slippery-slope argument -- it's about choosing to be good to people, to make the world a little better for them, a little bit, as best we can.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:25 PM on May 25, 2017 [15 favorites]


Another descendant of slave owners here and I'd be happy to see every statue of the civil war traitors taken down and melted for scrap.
posted by octothorpe at 7:56 PM on May 25, 2017 [12 favorites]


There is no such thing as "these monuments." There are four monuments gone. They are very different. And the hundreds of street and school names and other monuments that the lying disingenuous organization behind this have targeted are also all different.

The Liberty Monument, which some have taken great sanctimonious pains to quote from, is an abomination and it was dealt with righteously and correctly in 1993, when it was installed in a place where nobody would ever see it unless they sought it out and plaques were added explaining its terrible legacy. This kerfluffle has only enhanced its profile. It should have stayed forgotten, as its relocators intended.

I would have personally hired the crane to pull Jefferson Davis' monument off its pedestal myself, and I consider it the greatest tragedy of Hurricane Katrina that it didn't manage to wipe his loathsome "shrine" in Biloxi off the face of the Earth once and for all. Fuck that guy who died peacefully never believing he did a damn thing wrong.

Beauregard is an honest son of New Orleans, and if your argument for leaving Andrew Jackson in place is that he saved New Orleans in the battle of 1812 and so is a local hero, and your argument for removing Lee is that he doesn't have anything to do with New Orleans, then that doesn't leave you with much of an argument about Beauregard, who was at best a mediocre leader for the Confederacy in the Civil War but had by far his greatest influence as a businessman and philanthropist during Reconstruction. Now you could argue that a statue of that stature for the guy who ran the first Louisiana Lottery is a bit off-kilter, but nobody is making that argument, because they're too busy going GRAR.

As for Lee, I've made my arguments and I understand why some aren't persuaded; as long as we are honest about our motives that's cool. Lee was far more lukewarm toward the institution of slavery than people like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, which is why I brought them up earlier. We need to be consistent on these points. (Actually Jefferson shared Lee's belief that slavery would not persist, but he let his finances get in the way of his morality in a major way there. Washington simply owned slaves and didn't have a problem with it. Meanwhile a major reason the southern states wanted in on the Union is that abolition was gaining traction in the UK, and in fact Britain would ban slavery in 1833, almost thirty years before the American Civil War.)

And this is the thing, when you start drawing up lists, you say things like "these monuments" and "these streets" and "these schools," and that "these" is a lie. These historical people are individuals, none of them saints and none of them total monsters. Some of them contributed to our country, some to our state, some to our city, some (like Martin Luther King) without office to those who followed them. The people behind this movement are liars. They have misrepresented their intentions from the beginning, and now that they have had a taste of political victory they are putting forth their real agenda, which is to rewrite our history to their Orwellian standards.

Look, you want to put the Liberty Monument through a rock crusher? I don't have much objection to that, although I think it's a stain you won't want to explain when they start taking down statues of Martin Luther King 20 years from now because the pendulum has swung back. And I'll fire up the kiln to melt Jefferson Davis' statue myself. But we need to have a serious conversation about Lee. And if a genocidal maniac like Andrew Jackson is still there, what the hell are we doing removing Beauregard, who is as NOLA as the Morials?

Nobody has thought this through, least of through the folks I have so much contempt for I can't bother to get their name right, because they are such contemptible liars.
posted by Bringer Tom at 8:14 PM on May 25, 2017


Lee was far more lukewarm toward the institution of slavery than people like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, which is why I brought them up earlier.

If you say that you don't like slavery, and then lead an army organized with the specific purpose of preserving slavery, what that means is that you actually really really like slavery despite your protestations. Because you're willing to kill hundreds of thousands of human beings to preserve slavery, and willing to violate solemn oaths you willingly took in order to preserve slavery, and willing to betray and murder your comrades in arms to preserve slavery.

that doesn't leave you with much of an argument about Beauregard, who was at best a mediocre leader for the Confederacy in the Civil War

That is a good enough reason. He was a traitor, and a traitor in order to defend slavery. That he wasn't especially skilled at his treason-for-slavery doesn't absolve him somehow.

I'd be happy enough to remove statues of Jackson too, but. There are many presidents and other leaders who were, in their various ways, assholes. We know that confederate leaders and middle-managers and down the ranks were often assholes too in similar ways. But in addition to being assholes, confederates were also traitors. The thing about confederate monuments and names is that they are monuments to traitors, raised by the descendants of traitors, because of pride in treason. Tear them down and move them to Jim Crow museums.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:30 PM on May 25, 2017 [12 favorites]


"Beauregard, who was at best a mediocre leader for the Confederacy in the Civil War but had by far his greatest influence as a businessman and philanthropist during Reconstruction"

Great, and if the statue of him had been in civvie clothes and not as an equestrian testament to his military prowess I might buy your 'son of New Orleans' argument. Unfortunately that's not how it played out.
posted by komara at 9:46 PM on May 25, 2017 [7 favorites]


I am hoping the fine work in New Orleans will be the beginning of a slippery, slippery slope that -- sooner rather than later -- sees the eradication of the carving on Stone Mountain, GA.
posted by bryon at 11:41 PM on May 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


But we need to have a serious conversation about Lee. And if a genocidal maniac like Andrew Jackson is still there, what the hell are we doing removing Beauregard,

You are still failing to engage with the substance of the Mayor's speech which asserts that the primary reason for removing these monuments is not just who they depict but why and by whom they were erected.
posted by straight at 3:39 AM on May 26, 2017 [15 favorites]


We need to be consistent on these points.

When this is the third out of six different arguments you use, you're not being nearly the voice of calm, reasoned, intellectual debate that you appear to think you are.
posted by Etrigan at 3:54 AM on May 26, 2017 [10 favorites]


As for Lee, I've made my arguments and I understand why some aren't persuaded

Unless you understand that your arguments are largely based upon the virulently racist "Lost Cause" mythology, and that the historical facts on the ground don't support your assertions, I don't think you understand at all. For instance:

Lee was far more lukewarm toward the institution of slavery than people like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson

Again, this is the myth that Confederate and Jim Crow sympathizers have created, not the reality. Here's the reality, from one of his slaves (who, I should note, he fought hard to keep from being freed):
I remained with Gen. Lee about seventeen months, when my sister Mary, a cousin of ours, and I determined to run away, which we did in the year 1859; we had already reached Westminster, in Maryland, on our way to the North, when we were apprehended and thrown into prison, and Gen. Lee notified of our arrest; we remained in prison fifteen days, when we were sent back to Arlington; we were immediately taken before Gen. Lee, who demanded the reason why we ran away; we frankly told him that we considered ourselves free; he then told us he would teach us a lesson we never would forget; he then ordered us to the barn, where in his presence, we were tied firmly to posts by a Mr. Gwin, our overseer, who was ordered by Gen. Lee to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each, excepting my sister, who received but twenty; we were accordingly stripped to the skin by the overseer, who, however, had sufficient humanity to decline whipping us; accordingly Dick Williams, a county constable was called in, who gave us the number of lashes ordered; Gen. Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to "lay it on well," an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.
Brown's conclusion is that Lee's view of the institution was, in fact, less generous than that of Washington:
The tragedy for Lee is that he never made the transformational leap that would recognize the fundamental human nature of the slaves. George Washington wrestled with it; Abraham Lincoln did as well. Neither of these men ever considered African-Americans their equal. Ultimately, however, they both grasped the fact that what was wrong with slavery was not an absence of sufficient laws, or a need for more humane treatment within an exploitative system. What was wrong with slavery was that it failed to recognize the brotherhood of the human condition. The entangled lives of the slaves and their masters, the emotional, historical, sexual, and communal connections, could mean only one thing: that these beings were equal as part of mankind; equal in their human instincts, passions, desires, and inclinations, including the desire for self-determination. Equal, as Lincoln said, in the "right to eat the bread without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns. . . ." Capable, as George Washington finally realized, "of a destiny different from that in which they were born." Robert E. Lee would never cross this threshold. He could embrace the need for justice, but it was a justice defined by unjust principles. His racism and his limited imagination meant that he never admitted the humanity of the slaves with whom he lived. In avoiding that truth, he bound himself to slavery's inhumanity.
And Brown also notes in the NYT that he tried his damnedest to preserve the institution of slavery as much as, if not moreso, many of his peers:
The conventional wisdom holds, for example, that Lee disdained secession, but once his state took that step he was duty bound to follow. But these documents show that he was not actually opposed to disunion in principle. He simply wanted to exhaust all peaceful means of redress first, remarking in January 1861 that then “we can with a clear conscience separate.”

Nor was he against the pro-slavery policies of the secessionists, despite postwar portraits of the general as something of an abolitionist. He complained to a son in December 1860 about new territories being closed to slaveholders, and supported the Crittenden Compromise, which would have forbidden the abolition of slavery. “That deserves the support of every patriot,” he noted in a Jan. 29, 1861 letter to his daughter Agnes. Even at the moment he reportedly told Francis Blair that if “he owned all the negroes in the South, he would be willing to give them up…to save the Union,” he was actually fighting a court case to keep the slaves under his control in bondage “indefinitely,” though they had been promised freedom in his father-in-law’s will.
The people behind this movement are liars. They have misrepresented their intentions from the beginning, and now that they have had a taste of political victory they are putting forth their real agenda, which is to rewrite our history to their Orwellian standards.

The irony is palpable.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:07 AM on May 26, 2017 [32 favorites]


And this is the thing, when you start drawing up lists, you say things like "these monuments" and "these streets" and "these schools," and that "these" is a lie. These historical people are individuals, none of them saints and none of them total monsters. Some of them contributed to our country, some to our state, some to our city, some (like Martin Luther King) without office to those who followed them.

Wait. You're putting monuments to MLK in the same boat as monuments to Lee, Davis, and other Confederate leaders? How does that make any sense? The monuments to the Confederate dead were created to honor and elevate men who rebelled against their country to continue to be able to OWN other humans. They were put there to remind the newly freed slaves that they weren't really free. They remained there to signify what was really important to the community (psst...the power of the white ruling elites.) MLK did none of those things. In fact, everything he did was to try and reverse some of the evil that was done by those sons of bitches in the bronze.

It's one thing to say that a bronzed hero is problematic because he had an affair or drank too much but it is a completely different thing to try and excuse racist traitors whose lasting impact is still tearing this country apart. Sorry man, these dudes aren't heroes, this attachment to Southern heritage is not sane or good for the country, and the Confederacy is absolutely nothing to be proud of.

If the South had spent it's time and money on building better schools, integrating African Americans into their social and economic communities, instead of building monuments to racist traitors, they wouldn't have such crippling poverty and shitty education. Everything that has held the South back and prevented us from becoming a major economic force in the country can be directly traced to the racist commitment to the ideals of the Confederacy. It's high time white Southerners realized they've been clinging to hate for too long. We keep screwing ourselves over because we can't bear the thought of a black man doing better than a white. It needs to stop and if tearing down a statue helps, then pass the sledgehammer.
posted by teleri025 at 6:44 AM on May 26, 2017 [16 favorites]


Beauregard is an honest son of New Orleans, and if your argument for leaving Andrew Jackson in place is that he saved New Orleans in the battle of 1812 and so is a local hero, and your argument for removing Lee is that he doesn't have anything to do with New Orleans, then that doesn't leave you with much of an argument about Beauregard, who was at best a mediocre leader for the Confederacy in the Civil War

The argument for removing Lee is that the statue honors him as a symbol in a fictional, sanitized history on public land, which meant that those same lies were being put forth by the state. They were attempt to rewrite history and advance racist beliefs: That African Americans are in some way inferior to Caucasians, that miscegenation is a sin, that segregation was not harmful to African Americans but was instead, like slavery, the natural order of things, that the Civil War wasn't really about slavery but instead that the South was some sort of victim of Northern aggression. Some of this was said by Landrieu in his speech. The statue's removal should have nothing to so with whether Lee was from New Orleans or not. He fought for slavery.

Beauregard also fought for slavery. And despite your attempt to whitewash his military accomplishments, he was a bona-fide Confederate hero. He was the first Confederate General officer. (Brigadier) He ordered the shots fired that started the Civil War. He was in charge of the Battle for Fort Sumter, and given credit for that victory. Mediocre leader? They called him the "Hero of Fort Sumter"!

A few months later, he was in charge of the First Battle of Bull Run, and was credited for that victory. After that, Davis promoted to be the fifth most senior full General in the Confederate Army.

He helped create and championed the Confederate Battle Flag. Any perceived lacking in his military leadership had nothing to do with his fervor for the cause and a hell of a lot to do with his inability to get along with President Davis, who tried to marginalize his influence.

...but had by far his greatest influence as a businessman and philanthropist during Reconstruction. Now you could argue that a statue of that stature for the guy who ran the first Louisiana Lottery is a bit off-kilter, but nobody is making that argument, because they're too busy going GRAR.

Let's be clear about this: he built his public reputation as a war hero in battles he'd won. He wasn't some private following orders in the Confederate Army. He was a military general who created tactical strategy and commanded tens of thousands of men in impressive battles, in the fight to defend slavery. He used that reputation as a launching point for business initiatives. He constructed railroads and other public works projects. He was also one of the few people to push for voting rights for freed slaves. That part of his history should be remembered and praised -- in part because he was one of the only Confederate leaders who did.

The statue was of him, on a horse, in full uniform. It wasn't of him in a suit in the postbellum South. Context matters.
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on May 26, 2017 [10 favorites]


The people behind this movement are liars. They have misrepresented their intentions from the beginning, and now that they have had a taste of political victory they are putting forth their real agenda, which is to rewrite our history to their Orwellian standards.

This is slanderous and ridiculous, man. C'mon. Take Em Down NOLA has had that same list for months and months, when they did that street tour. It's an interesting list, and has started some conversations at Tulane, even if they've been conversations that have been brewing for a long time. [shout out to SOAR at Tulane.]

It's a radical list, they are agitators, but I fail to see how it's 'Orwellian.'

How is "take down all monuments to white supremacy" misrepresenting their position or lying? it's straightforward, no?
posted by eustatic at 9:23 AM on May 26, 2017 [6 favorites]


[person asserts Take Em Down NOLA is trying to rewrite history]
[dozens of people explain why that isn't the case]
[same person asserts Take Em Down NOLA is trying to rewrite history]
posted by beerperson at 10:14 AM on May 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


First they came for the Battle of Liberty Place, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Place

Then they came for Jefferson Davis, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a traitorous President of the Confederacy

Then they came for Robert E. Lee, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a loser Confederate general

Then they came for Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard—
And there was no one left to speak for this Honest Son of New Orleans
But one Metafilterer
posted by Nelson at 10:40 AM on May 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


let's put it in context
...in 1860 American slaves, as a financial asset, were worth approximately three and a half billion dollars — that's just as property. Three and a half billion dollars was the net worth, roughly, of slaves in 1860. In today's dollars that would be approximately seventy-five billion dollars. In 1860 slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America's manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together. Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy. The only thing worth more than the slaves in the American economy of the 1850s was the land itself, and no one can really put a dollar value on all of the land of North America. If you're looking to begin to understand why the South will begin to defend this system, and defend this society, and worry about it shrinking, and worry about a political culture from the North that is really beginning to criticize them, think three and a half billion dollars and the largest financial asset in American society, and what you might even try to compare that to today.
-- Yale History Professor David Blight
posted by kirkaracha at 11:38 AM on May 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


How can we claim "reconciliation" when a city refuses to accept its own history, warts and all?

fwiw, RVA has a monument to Henry "Box" Brown along the canal walk (near the triple crossing iirc) but yea, nothing like germany's Denkmals and Mahnmals:*
A Mahnmal is something subtly different, and we have no readily available English translation. Mahnen means both “to admonish” and “to remind;” it is often paired with the idea of caution or observance, as when one urges someone to take caution or be vigilant. A Mahnmal, then, is something meant both to remind and to warn, it pleads for remembrance not for the purpose of glory but for the purpose of heedful acknowledgment, even shame. A Mahnmal takes the idea of “never again” and gives it shape.

Berlin has an impressive Mahnmal culture. The most famous is the Holocaust-Mahnmal, or the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, a vast grid of concrete vertical slabs arranged on rising and falling ground.
posted by kliuless at 11:16 AM on May 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Hey, Lee Harvey Oswald is an honest son of New Orleans. Let's get him up there on a scrolled neoclassical pedestal, balancing his rifle on a stack of shity science textbooks. Otherwise, it will be impossible to have a serious discussion about Lee Harvey Oswald and his place in history.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:29 PM on May 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


The Myth of the Kindly General Lee
To describe this man as American hero requires ignoring the immense suffering for which he was personally responsible, both on and off the battlefield. It requires ignoring his participation in the industry of human bondage, his betrayal of his country in defense of that institution, the battlefields scattered with the lifeless bodies of men who followed his orders and those they killed, his hostility towards the rights of the freedmen and his indifference to his own students waging a campaign of terror against the newly emancipated. It requires reducing the sum of human virtue to a sense of decorum and the ability to convey gravitas in a gray uniform.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:41 PM on June 4, 2017 [6 favorites]


I vaguely, vaguely, recall a Mad Magazine gag about what it would be like if we applied the same sort of revisionism to WW2 as we do to the Civil War. IIRC correctly it had a gentle Nazi submarine captain commiserating with an underling about being forced to fight for a cause they didn't believe in, and then wiping away a tear as he muttered "Ach, how I miss Greta and the children".

Mind you, given that it's 2017 I wouldn't actually be surprised to see a movie humanising Nazis, but at least at one point it was seen as self-evidently ludicrous.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:27 PM on June 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


Adam Serwer has response to a National Review (a noted white supremacist rag) critique of his article: Lee's Reputation Can't Be Redeemed
Lee was a man of his time. So was George Henry Thomas, a son of Virginia who chose to fight for the Union over fighting for slavery. The abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was a man of his time, as was Frederick Douglass. Ulysses Grant and Abraham Lincoln were men of their time. Wesley Norris, whom Lee had tortured for escaping his plantation, was a man of his time. The hundreds of thousands of men who fought for the Union, including the black soldiers murdered and humiliated by Lee’s lieutenants, were men of their time. We do not, in the main, build statues to people about whom the best that can be said is that they were of their time. We build them to people who rise above their times, and like many other men of his time, as a farmer, a general, a statesman, and an educator, Lee failed this test in every respect.
[...]
The Lee monument in New Orleans went up not in 1876 but in 1884, as racist paramilitaries like the White League helped the Democratic Party re-establish its political dominance over the city; these statutes are commemorations of those victories, not politically neutral commemorations of fallen warriors. They were raised to, in the words of the historian David Blight, help “construct a story of noble sacrifice for a holy cause of home and independence, and especially in the service of a racial ideology that would sustain white supremacy.”

The myths both about Lee and the Confederacy, his supposed hatred of slavery, his non-ownership of slaves, and his conduct during the war and his reasons for fighting it, are all sustained by the statues and monuments that honor him. The reverence for the people represented by those monuments interferes with the proper remembrance of history, it does not enhance it. You don’t need a statue of Lee to understand why white Southerners revered him, you need a book. The statue can go in a museum.

McLaughlin concludes that I am making a “contemporary political cause” out of the Civil War, and that my “interest in attacking General Lee is transparently about the present, not the past.”

This, I’m afraid, is correct. My contemporary political cause is demonstrating that white supremacy is a monstrous ideology that has cost hundreds of millions of Americans very dearly over centuries, and that its greatest champions are not heroes worthy of admiration. I’m sorry that’s a fight we’re still having in the present, and that it did not end with Appomattox. The cult of Lee is party to blame.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:44 AM on June 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


Mind you, given that it's 2017 I wouldn't actually be surprised to see a movie humanising Nazis, but at least at one point it was seen as self-evidently ludicrous.

Are you sure you weren't reading some sort of weird reverse-satire about media awareness or something? I mean, the movie you're describing is largely Das Boot which was released in 1981 and is of course magnificent?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:09 AM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ed Kilgore: Robert E. Lee Monuments Are Symbols of Neo-Confederacy, Not the Confederacy
By his surrender at Appamattox, and his much-honored postwar career, Robert E. Lee was very much a symbol of the idea that in losing the Civil War the white South had given up slavery but maintained its “honor,” its “states’ rights,” and its self-determination in choosing to subjugate ex-slaves and deny them the rights for which the war was allegedly fought, at least in northern eyes. The postwar white terror that afflicted the South until the United States wearily abandoned Reconstruction was invariably treated as a product of Reconstruction rather than what is actually was: a partial victory for the “lost cause” that lasted much longer than the Confederacy.

It’s this neo-Confederacy that must be acknowledged and finally repudiated by people in all parts of the country, in no small part because all parts of the country were complicit in the horrible betrayal of African-Americans (and the white people who died and sacrificed on their behalf) that occurred when Reconstruction was abandoned and white supremacy reigned supreme in the former Confederacy. Anyone who is nostalgic for Jim Crow should probably keep those views to themselves.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:56 AM on June 7, 2017 [4 favorites]


Antonia Noori Farzan in the Phoenix New Times writes about the Real History Behind Arizona's Confederate Monuments

Turns out it isn't just revisionist, but strangely recent.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:24 PM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


Breanna Edwards: Ala. Mayor Wants New Orleans’ Recently Disassembled Confederate Monuments for Display in His City’s Memorial Park, Because of Course He Does (emphasis in original)
Seems like one Alabama mayor wants to collect all the white supremacist last-place trophies, including those that have already been discarded by states that either know or are learning to do better. In this case, Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail claims he’s gotten nothing but a thumbs-up from his constituents after reaching out to New Orleans leaders offering to take the city’s now-banned Confederate monuments and display them proudly in his city.

“Everybody who’s approached me has said they think it’s a great idea, and it seems like I haven’t offended anybody—which is never the goal,” Nail told the Cullman Times.

Of course, of course, Nail even has a black friend who approves and offered to chip in to help move the monuments—which, you know, celebrate slavery, racism and generally the wrong side of history—to their dear old town.
[...]
Of course, Nail is of the school that says it’s about “heritage,” not “hate.”

“What I told the mayor, and what I’ve told everyone I’ve talked about it with, is that for me, remembering these people and these events is about heritage—not hate,” he said.

Ask certain folks to talk about slavery, though, or police brutality and they froth at the mouth. So I guess only some events and people should be remembered.

Anyway, Nail went on to say: “Anybody who knows me knows that I’m no racist. But ultimately, it will be up to the folks in New Orleans—and up to the people who live in Hanceville, and the Hanceville City Council—to decide what—if anything—happens next.
If you're playing "dumbest fucking excuses for Confederate memorials" bingo, this guy will get you pretty much every box.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:06 PM on June 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


Sophie Abramowitz, Eva Latterner, and Gillet Rosenblith: Tools of Displacement
The statues of Jackson and Lee not only symbolize the violence of the ongoing displacements of gentrification; they also initiated and facilitated these changes when they were first put up. Strategically erecting these symbols of the Confederacy at the edges of or atop black and nonwhite immigrant communities provided Charlottesville’s white elite with a means of physically buttressing their ever-fragile hold of white supremacy. To understand this is to understand Charlottesville’s demographic population shifts throughout the 20th and 21st centuries and how the statues physically bisect those gentrifying spaces.

Lee’s statue was unveiled before thousands of attendees on May 21, 1924, during a two-day gathering of the Sons of the Confederacy at which the city also saw KKK agitation. With the University of Virginia President Edwin Alderman giving the statue’s dedication before several Confederate memorial groups, the ceremony represented a partnership between the state university and national organizations of the Confederacy in the monumentalization of the Lost Cause.

The ideology of the Lost Cause posits that noble and chivalrous Confederate soldiers and leaders fought the Civil War as a conflict over states’ rights rather than slavery. According to this mythology, post-emancipation black people misused their freedom and were, thus, inept American citizens. For Lost Cause supporters, this failure of black citizenship proved that white people were of an innately superior race and, following that logic, that slavery was beneficial to all.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:38 PM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


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