The Black Lives Movement filled our nation’s streets at the end of May. The protests continue today. One of the issues involved in the movement are the many monuments honoring Confederate leaders. For black America these edifices support slavery, and an effort to destroy the Union.
I admit that before researching this article I was ignorant about the ‘why’ and ‘when’ they were constructed. Like most Americans, I believed they were built after 1865 and the ‘why,’ I still don’t completely understand. However, I will attempt to help us both comprehend and understand the mentality of our nation which resulted in their being placed in positions of honor.
First, these monuments do not exist exclusively in the 11 states which supported the confederacy. They were built in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
Second, the majority of these 700 tributes to our nation’s enemies were constructed between the 1890’s and 1950’s. Why this time period?
After the end of the Civil War in 1865, and a declaration by our government that all slaves were now free men, multiple states adopted the “Jim Crow Laws.” These “laws” were written with a single focus on one entire race of Americans, and “were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education or other opportunities. Those who attempted to defy Jim Crow laws often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence and death.” They were not permanently abolished until 1968.
A quick calculation reveals that the construction of monuments to the confederacy coincided with the implementation of these “laws” based on white supremacy, and a rejection of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The fact that “Jim Crow Laws” existed four years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, proves that racism continued for more than 100 years after the 13th amendment abolishing slavery was passed. The marches of today represent a need to address the primary reason why our nation has never been ‘great.’
A Democratic candidate for the Senate in New Hampshire offered his support for confederate monuments and displayed the continuing chasm between blacks and whites in America.
Retired General Don Bolduc said during a campaign-style gathering earlier this month that he believed statues of Confederate soldiers are “symbols of hope” and “moving forward.”
“We forgave. We created this thing called Reconstruction. We moved forward. We honor those that fought against us as opposed to dishonoring them. We gave them life back, opportunity back in order for them to change, in order to unify our country. These decisions were made for a reason. Statues were put up for a reason,” Bolduc can be seen saying in video of the event.
First, one question stands out above all others: “what ‘reason’ justifies the construction of monuments to slavery; the ‘right’ for white men to own black men and women?”
Old, white men just don’t get it, and don’t want to.
Today’s protests began as a demand for justice after the murder of George Floyd. They have become much more than that. This is a continuation of the critical fight for equality. America is a diverse nation, and becoming more so with every passing day. We are not a ‘white nation.’
The first slaves sat foot on the shores of the ‘new world’ in 1619. Racism continues to be our nation’s biggest problem and has been for the last 401 years. The Constitution means nothing if ALL Americans are not treated equally in every situation. Until black Americans are free to accomplish the American dream; until all laws apply equally to all people, America will continue to harbor its greatest shame.
These monuments to slavery and treason are reminders of the greatest failure in America. The Constitution begins with, “We, the People,” not “We the White People.”
Supporting the existence of statues paying homage to slave owners is an act of white supremacy, and therefore they must be removed from every state.
Op-ed by James Turnage
My eight novels, including “DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR GOD AND COUNTRY,” are available on Amazon’s free Kindle app
My books can be found at “James Turnage”