Righting history; not rewriting it.

I have seen so much animosity over the movement of Confederate statues honoring Southern generals, leaders and other war “heroes”. For the most part, these statues are being moved to more appropriate locations, museums, because of their historical significance. There is historical significance in both the person they portray and the erection of the statues, themselves, and the harm they have done to a divided nation. No, not just now. The United States has remained firmly divided since the Civil War. Sure, It has co-exited because the South lost, but the Confederacy lived on by passing those tensions down through their descendents.

We have heard all manner of illogical reasoning. Some say we are trying to rewrite history. Some say these men were noble and fighting for states’ rights and not slavery. Some claim we are trying to erase history. Some even claim the slippery slope defense, suggesting that monuments to National Heroes and the Founding Fathers will be next because they may have done something in their lives which offends someone. No, this is not about people being easily offended (unless it is the people complaining about moving these honorific monuments to museums). This is literally about what these statues represent and their impact on our society. Yes, the statues, themselves, have had an impact, a quite negative one.

Recently I responded to a post on my feed and I think it adequately addresses this.

Marquel Lavendar Truong I see some comments regarding things like Mt Rushmore and the like being torn down.  This is not actually about people who owned slaves. You can recognize that was the culture of their time, right or wrong. This is about when we, as a nation, grew a conscience and realized slavery was an abomination which just should not and could not continue. History is replete with slavery. These confederate statues represent a willful defiance to become a better nation, where all people are protected by the constitution, where all people are people and deserve human rights. The confederate states made a choice that being slave owners was more important than freedom for all, and more important than their nation. Their greed was too absolute. So no, we aren’t taking down the monuments to our founding fathers. Yes, there were atrocities. Yes there were a great many horrible and bad things and they should all be taught openly and correctly. But the confederacy was a blight. They represented slavery, fought for it and lost. They were on he wrong side and they were defeated and raising monuments to glorify them has caused immeasurable damage to our society and prevented our country from moving forward as it should have. It has kept the wounds of the south alive and bleeding. It has kept resentment stewing. It has enabled and promoted bigotry and racism. We cannot heal from the past if we are fantacizing about it like some romantic day dream. We have to stop this rewriting of history which paints the south as noble and just. It was not. I grew up in east Texas. I heard my whole life about how noble the south was, how close they were to winning, how atrocious the Yankees were, states rights, how admirable Robert E Lee was, even how well most slaves were really treated (I was taught that, not that it was true) and how many of them didn’t even want freedom at all. I heard every defense imaginable growing up. I also heard things like the N word used all the time, black men referred to as “boy”, saw black children that I knew as friends bussed to mostly white schools and stand against the wall at lunch waiting on the white kids to go by first. Belaire Elementary School in Athens, Texas when I was in second grade. I saw Brazil nuts in the grocery store, except I was almost grown before I knew them by any other name than Ni**er toes- which is what was on the actual sign in the grocery store, by the pound. Even as an adult, I witnessed people complain if a black family moved into their neighborhood. I have seen white trash using that confederate flag to degrade black people. I am so thankful for my conscience. I am thankful I did not grow to fit my environment. I am thankful I found more value in myself and in humanity than the color of skin someone has. And make no mistake, the racism I witnessed was not reserved for black people alone. Anyone who was different was labeled as inferior, told they don’t belong. That is what monuments to these falsities has caused, a lingering inability to coexist peacefully. They should never have been allowed. We should never have been taught this false history. No one is trying to rewrite history, the south did that with wild abandon. We are trying to right it so we can stop this continuation of intolerance and hate and finally heal together as a single nation. The south is still holding on to false glories of a war they lost over a hundred years ago. It is time to accept the truth and it is time to move on so we can have a better future which does not glorify some fo the worst parts of our past.”

In reality, it has literally been 152 years since the Confederacy surrendered in defeat. But in all that time, they have remained adamantly defiant. They have fought every step of the way against an integrated and equal society. They have attempted to rewrite and legitimize their history of violence and slavery. They have fought against every step forward which would make black, Hispanic, Asian and Native Americans their equal both in law and in society. Why? Because they honor and revere these remnants of their Confederate past. These statues raised in honor of their history of supremacy over other races has perpetuated the resentment of that war, the indignation felt at being deemed another’s equal.  The South has been allowed to romanticized their history to a point of myth, and like most myths, it is only rooted in a sliver of a shadow of truth. Now we have a culture raised to be proud and promote their rebel history.

Had those rebels fought for something noble, it might be worthy of praise, even in their loss. But they did not. Their leaders sent young men into battle against their own countrymen to protect the wealth and greed of rich slave owners who did not want to sacrifice their primary labor force. These are the men who taught others to be bigots for the primary purpose of growing, maintaining and protecting wealth. The average soldier may have thought they were fighting for states’ rights, but they were not. Just like Nazi soldiers were, for the most part, just young men serving their country and lied to by propaganda.

We can recognize the uneducated soldier who sacrificed honorably for a cause he did not understand, but to erect statues to their leaders is to hail and praise the very men who lied to the soldiers, who knew the difference and made a choice. Robert E. Lee was supposedly conflicted. Had he followed the part of his conscience which told him fighting for slavery was wrong, think how many lives might have been saved. Think how differently the world might look today. His conflict did not make him a better man. The fact he felt it and made the wrong choice deliberately tells us the man he truly chose to be. Much like the Nazi Generals, he deserves no monuments of honor nor praise.

The glorification of the Confederacy must stop. It is damaging our nation. We cannot ever heal nor truly become one, united nation for so long as these statues stand and are revered. They perpetuate the continuation of “us versus them.” They do not represent history in any real form when they are honored. How can someone be both proud to be Confederate and wish the Confederacy had won and be proud to be an US American? There is conflict in this. How can we abolish racism in our society when we honor the inception of it? How can we coexist in peace and equality when we hold near a resentment of both?

False history belongs in tales of myth. Its only vital importance being the effect it has had on our civilization. We have begun the process, by removing these honorific statues, of finally healing our nation. You may think the uprising it is causing is anything but healing, however, to remove this cancer, we must first cut it out. That incision, though it may hurt in the short term, is necessary. The incision will heal and the tumor will be gone, resulting in a much healthier society.

We are not rewriting history. We are righting it.

We are One Woman, One World.

Ann Lavendar Truong

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