Dialectic: Confederate Monuments

by Eric Fang and Krishna Bheda

In our recurring Dialectics, two authors with contrasting viewpoints will discuss an issue of prominence in the local or broader community. We hope to use these multiple views to provoke deeper thought among the student body and help readers explore new perspectives.

To some, Confederate monuments are memorials to a proud heritage and remembrance of historical fact; to others, a symbol of continued racism and oppression, and the dilution of the grim realities of slavery.

Columnist Krishna Bheda and Global Editor Eric Fang weigh these issues.

Winged Post: While some Confederate monuments were dedicated during or soon after the Civil War, the majority were erected later. Should a distinction be made in how monuments are treated based on date of creation?

Eric Fang: Though some statues may have initially been erected for different purposes in the past, what matters the most is what they represent in the present day. I am aware of a number of said statues being mass constructed to justify the racist Jim Crow laws which the civil rights movement sought to end. Because of this, these statues should be placed in museums to be learned from.

Krishna Bheda: All things created should be cared for. Regardless of how old the monuments are, or what they mean, they should be preserved because they do represent slavery and supremacists and people need reminders of our past; however again, they should be reminded of that in different settings, not in everyday life.

WP: How do you believe that the existence of Confederate monuments has contributed to the continued presence of white supremacist/nationalist attitudes?

EF: Some may feel inspired when they see statues of people that fought for racist groups such as the Confederacy because they may think that today’s society not only remembers racists after death but also secretly reveres them through memorialized statues in public parks contributed significantly to the numbers of white supremacists, but I do think that removing the statues will be a step in the right direction.

KB: The Confederacy stood for treachery and inhumanity, and those statues represent that. By having them on streets, white supremacy has only been promoted. Most of our nation is united and not racist, however there are still areas that are heavily racist. The murder in Charlottesville was an example and a cause of violence; thus only reinforcing the idea that these monuments are not promoting anything healthy.

WP: Some people believe that Confederate monuments represent their history and heritage — how should this be considered in dealing with the monuments?

EF: The statues undoubtedly represent American history and heritage that it is right for the American people to learn and understand what the Confederate leaders depicted by the statues did in their lifetimes. However, I do not believe it is right for the people to revere and honor those that fought against the United States that we know today and ultimately lost in the form of statues in public parks.

KB: These statues remind future generations of past mistakes and hurt and what to avoid in the future. However, these statues should be relocated to museums. If they are out on our streets, it is telling generations now that white supremacy and slavery is what America stands for. Some make an argument that these statues represent southern pride, however that southern pride was from the 1860s. The south can find new forms of pride.

WP: How do you think removing Confederate monuments would affect American white supremacy or nationalism?

EF: Removing Confederate statues will do little to sway those that already identify as white nationalists, but that over time there will be a decline in white nationalists as people will no longer be able to see Confederates, who fought to keep slavery, depicted in such awe-inspiring statues in the public. Instead, they can see these statues in museums where they can be properly educated about what the people shown in the statues did.

KB: Removing these monuments will make a statement of unity and equality in America, as well as peace. It would show our citizens that America does not stand with supremacists and, like the statues, they need to go. Yes, once this is done, there will be more protests, and it is possible there will be more violence, but making that statement nationwide is the first step to creating a better and safer America.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on September 6, 2017.