This column is responding to Will Hall’s column “Statue opinion must be challenged” published Nov. 3.
Will Hall’s opinion is nothing new, and it might even seem compelling. “Confederate symbols exist to remind people of their ancestors; removing them from public spaces is an authoritarian reaction that plays into the hands of a mob mentality” is a fair way to summarize the author’s main point.
However, there are several logical and factual flaws in this apologist narrative.
It’s well-intentioned to say Confederate statues don’t “provide a venue to advance or glorify the disgusting ideology of white supremacy, but rather to remember those who came before us.” But this claim shows a deep misunderstanding of the very goals of having Confederate symbols in public spaces.
It perpetuates the ahistorical perspective of the Lost Cause by omitting that the soldiers being idealized in those public monuments fought a war to preserve and expand slavery. You cannot say those statues exist to remember Confederate soldiers without saying they idealize the cause to expand the right to own human bodies.
Another troubling flaw in the author’s opinion is his neglecting the experiences of the black population in the South and in Lafayette County during and after the war. Hall appeals very effectively to the nostalgic, sanitized views of the Civil War when he says, “The soldier has stood valiantly in memorial to all those who perished alongside him defending their land.”
Perhaps he should consider the slave population of Lafayette County in 1860 — 44 percent of the total. Weren’t Confederate soldiers fighting not only for “their” land but also to preserve the people they considered property and who were forced to work that same land?
As for the claim that removing Confederate statues plays into the hands of an authoritarian mob mentality, this affirmation falls under its own weight. The author wants to avoid that “we surrender our history to the hands of mob rule, where the loudest among us have the ultimate power to choose what history we remember and what history we forget.”
But that is exactly how Confederate monuments came into existence. Weren’t Lost Causers being that “loudest voice,” the one that chose the history that was to be remembered and one that terrorized the lives of the black population for years after the Civil War?
Debates around memory and symbols are not exclusive to the U.S. South. In Spain, many still idealize the genocidal age of imperialism in the Americas as a glorious historical period. After the Spanish Civil War in the late ‘30s, the narrative of fascism as a “savior” for Spain’s “moral decay” became a way to legitimize a dictatorship that lasted until 1975 and whose legacy is still embedded in Spanish right-wing parties.
It’s revealing to look at other countries — like Spain, France, the U.K., Russia and many others — to learn how those in power can distort shameful historical events to their advantage.
To improve our debate on Confederate statues, I encourage Hall to reconsider the factual and logical flaws of his position, to escape his blind commitment to a distorted history and most importantly, to listen to the other side.
Francisco Hernandez is a senior international studies major from Valencia, Spain.