Statues are meant to commemorate great leaders or people who have had a significant impact on history. However, recently, tensions in the U.S. combusted over the issue of whether Civil War statues commemorating Confederate generals should remain standing. Some people feel strongly that these generals led their troops in historic victories, and their statues should remain to remind us of those events, no matter how controversial they may seem to us now. These supporters believe that these statues acknowledge and show respect to the courage and sacrifices of all men and women in the armed services.
On the other side of the debate are those who take offense to Confederate statues commemorating infamous slave owners who fought against the abolishment of slavery. In the words of Nick Cannon, an American rapper and actor, “Your definition of beauty is our definition of pain.” For some – especially African American citizens – the statues represent white supremacy and fail to acknowledge the horrors black people endured at the hands of these men.
I believe that we should keep the statues up. Without a doubt, slavery is a part of this country’s history that we should not celebrate, but I believe that the statues should remain standing because they represent honor and commemorate all of the soldiers who have made sacrifices for this country. It’s common for those who support Civil War monuments in the South to be accused of being white supremacists. However, imagine if you grew up hearing stories of how your great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. You would have a reason for wanting the monuments to remain, even if you don’t share any of the beliefs of white supremacists. Each of us likely has some relative who has served in the armed forces. It is important that we remember and honor those who have made sacrifices for our country, even if they weren’t from the north side of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Tensions over this issue boiled over this summer in Charlottesville, Virginia. On August 12, a protest against the removal of Confederate monuments turned violent and deadly when white nationalists attacked counter-protesters. A few weeks later, as reported by DailyMail.com, “Workers in Charlottesville draped giant black covers over two statues of Confederate generals … to symbolize the city’s mourning for a woman killed while protesting a white nationalist rally … Some of the crowd cheered as the cover was put in place.”
After the events in Charlottesville, many people are asking: How can we keep everyone happy? I believe the answer is to meet in the middle. In my opinion, we should keep most of the statues up while putting the most offensive in museums so they can still be viewed, but in a historical context. Keeping most of these statues in public is good for our country, whether you agree with the historical figure’s beliefs or not.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.