The other night my father and I got into an argument over statues. My dad intended to say if we don’t have any statues, there won’t be any more fighting by making the post he did. However, instead, it came across as super racist, and we had a long talk about it. A good discussion about it overall: despite knowing my dad’s intentions were pure, I did not want people thinking differently of him all of a sudden from one post. That’s the thing, though, we have to think about our words carefully. We have to think about the jokes we want to make. And this isn’t because the world is suddenly so politically correct we cannot make jokes anymore. We can, and we should, but we should not joke about everything. In particular, this conversation made me think a lot about all the statues people are arguing about currently.
Imagine that someone put up a statue for every shitty milestone in your life, and that is all people knew about you. Would you want someone to celebrate the time as a teenager you told one of your parents you hated them? No one wants others to remember them by the one time in their life they were a complete and utter brat. Would you want someone to put a statue up of all the times you bullied some girl in high school with the central insult that they have carried around with them all their lives engraved on the bottom? What if they upped the anty and put a pamphlet beside it, and every single insult you ever said to this person was on display? These are minor offenses that a lot of us have made or a lot of have endured. That does not mean we want them celebrated, but if you don’t want these showcased, can you imagine what it would feel like if something even worse was celebrated?
Let’s up this bar, shall we? There are so many what-if statues I’d like to present at this time. What if someone wanted to erect a statue of someone who beat one of your loved ones so bad they ended up in the hospital? Would you want a figure that glorified this person who beat your daughter within an inch of her life? What about a statue of someone who murdered your son in a hate crime merely for being gay? What if a statue of Brock Turner was put up at Standford because jail time, according to his father, was “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action“? Could you imagine a statue going on up of someone who molested your child? A statue that he or she would have to pass every day just because that person felt remorse. Can you imagine that? Take a second to do so and respond with how it would make you think.
The fact of the matter is you would be enraged. You would do anything in your power to get that statue taken down. At no point should others celebrate people’s toxic and vile behavior. If that were the case, we would live in a state of total anarchy because no one would care about killing someone in a drunk driving accident if they received a reward for such actions. I bring this all up because of the timing others put up these statues. According to a study back in 2017, most statues were erected during times of extreme civil rights tension. Some were in the early 1900s, and this occurred again in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the 1900s, they accompanied Jim Crow Laws. These laws focused on legalizing racial segregation, and it worked for some time. Despite the thirteenth amendment, people still attempted to keep African Americans in their so-called place. These codes, Black Codes, were riddled throughout the south to control slaves given their freedom. These codes allowed indentured servitude, to take voting rights away, to control where they lived and how they traveled, and to seize children for labor purposes. The legal system employed a lot of former Confederate soldiers in the south to make matters worse for minorities during this time. With the decks stacked against Black citizens, they had no chance to enjoy and participate in their freedom.
Eventually, these laws went as far as to have areas designated for whites only. They included and were not limited to stores, elevators, entrances, cemeteries, etc. If African Americans had to swear on the Bible in court, the court provided them with a different Bible. There was the Green Book for traveling motorists to keep them safe in areas. Provisions were in place because Black citizens needed that protection. During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, many laws had to be created to ensure amendments were followed and for progress to become respected. The Voting Rights Act in 1965 provided that minorities would no longer have to endure efforts to keep them from voting. And then, in 1968, the Fair Housing Act was meant to abolish discrimination in renting and selling homes. Even though Jim Crow laws were off the books, they were not abided by in all areas of the United States.
These statues did not appear because people wanted to celebrate history. James Grossman, the American Historical Association executive director, confirms that “these statues were meant to create legitimate garb for white supremacy.” The fact of the matter is if these statues represent history, then they should be preserved in a museum if they remain at all. Not every person in history deserves or needs a statue. Not everything needs commemoration with fondness. If people take the time to learn the truth behind the figures, they become as appalled as those who want them removed.
The statues represent hatred. The same is true about the confederate flag, but that is another piece for another day. Many other people are deserving of statues, not those who continually worked to keep others in our oppressed. Although without people in history fighting for our freedoms, our country would not exist, we should not continue to want everything to stay the same. Our country needs to move forward and indeed allow the privileges they speak about for everyone. Getting rid of these statues is a step in the right direction to ensure such.