This past Friday, the city of New Orleans took down a monument to Civil War Confederate general Robert E. Lee. It completed the process of removing four monuments to Confederate figures, and the city’s mayor, Mitch Landrieu, gave an impassioned speech calling on his city to face up to its racist past.
In his speech at Gallier Hall, Mayor Landrieu called into the question the patriotism of those who support the Confederacy.
“It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America. They fought against it,” Landrieu said. “They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. … The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.”
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.
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.
[H/T Slate] Featured image via screen grab