Editorial: Moving statue does not erase history

By on May 2, 2016
President James Ramsey & Confederate Statue

By Sam Draut–

I’ll preface all this by saying I’m white and privileged. I grew up in a classic suburban setting, void of racial degradation and prejudices directed toward me.

As a I child, I went on occasional trips to the Speed Art Museum with my family. And every time we went, we would drive past the towering 70-foot monument honoring Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Yes, the same Confederate soldiers who fought to protect their “right” to enslave an entire race and continue a culture of heinous oppression.

Thirty years after the Civil War ended, the monument was erected on Third Street around the southern outskirts of downtown Louisville. It stood there until Friday, when U of L and city officials announced that city workers would begin to remove it and place it in a more appropriate location.

When I first heard the news, I was relieved. The three Confederate soldiers that ominously look northward, almost as a way to contest the Union’s victory, now 150 years ago, had no place being anywhere near a college campus that prides itself on diversity and progressive thinking.

Are we erasing history? No, there is a clear difference between destroying historical accounts and honoring our past tendencies of oppression. Slavery is America’s greatest gaping wound, and the glorification of the protection of that undeniable part of the country’s history isn’t going to be forgotten.

Text books still include all accounts of the Civil War, and U of L’s history department offers a bevy of courses on American history that will include the full scope of Antebellum America, the Civil War and the Reconstruction era.

After the announcement, I spoke with a friend (who is also white) about it. She was quick to diminish it, believing  “it wasn’t a big deal.” To her, it might not be, but for countless African-Americans who have passed the monument over the years, the statue was a symbol that their ancestors weren’t seen as equal and shackled in slavery for years on end. It was reminder that we honor the fight for that abominable lifestyle.

We wouldn’t expect to go to Germany and see a dedication of the Nazi Party and its dissemination of the Jewish race. The Holocaust is part of history, and so is slavery, but honoring the larger ideals behind that part of history doesn’t seem right.

Simply put, the Confederacy aimed to protect and continue slavery.

What exactly were we even holding onto by keeping the monument in such a prominent place for so long? There are Confederate cemeteries across the South, like Louisville’s Pewee Valley Confederate Cemetery, a much more appropriate place for the statue. We aren’t hiding our past, and we aren’t dishonoring the men who died to protect their beliefs, but we are trying to move away from a reminder of our dark past.

The monument that I cringed seeing when I was younger will soon be gone, but it’s still 120 years too late.

Photo by Sarah Rohleder / The Louisville Cardinal

This piece reflects the opinion of The Louisville Cardinal staff. 

About Sam Draut

6 Comments

  1. Jonathan McCleese

    May 2, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Imagine the following scenario.

    In 2016 a monument is erected on the courthouse lawn of Anytown, USA to honor the heroes of our nation who served in the first Gulf War.

    Now imagine that 150 years later Anytown has become a predominantly Muslim community, and for 15 decades more & more people start believing that the Gulf War and Middle-Eastern wars that followed in the early 2000s were about subjecting the Arab/Muslim world under the thumb of the U.S. simply for control of that region’s oil.

    How does the idea sit with you that monuments built to honor the sacrifices of men & women we currently know, love, and consider heroes for their military service might be knocked down, vandalized, or dismantled & reassembled out of public view because the people in Anytown, USA consider our heroes to be evil & offensive in the year 2166?

    That is exactly what is happening across the south with Confederate flags and monuments in the public square.

    Monuments such as the one at the University of Louisville campus are essentially no different than tombstones. They were erected by people who lost loved ones, many of their fathers, sons, husbands, uncles, & cousins never making it back home.

    They were paid for by the loved ones’ donations; sometimes all folks could give were pennies at a time, and they did so while struggling to put food upon their tables.

    They were erected in the most public of places to be sure that their brave boys would never be forgotten.

    This monument, and others like it, are incredible symbols of love, not hate.

    Those who engage in, support, or contribute to the removal of such monuments are the one’s filled with hate, and no better than those who would desecrate a gravesite. There is no good in such people.

    • Justin

      May 3, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      My sediments exactly. When are people going to pull their head out of their A-Double-Snakes? When does it end?

  2. Bryce

    May 3, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Just wanted to remind you, the statue reads “To the rank and file of the Armies of the South.” By your logic, should we also dishonor the rank and file of the German Army, WWII veterans, by removing monuments erected in their honor, just because they were forced to fight under the control of the Nazis? Considering even some of Germany’s top generals conspired to assassinate Hitler, I call your generalization grossly unfair.

  3. Mitch

    May 4, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Author writes: “The three Confederate soldiers that ominously look northward, almost as a way to contest the Union’s victory”

    The soldiers point in three directions.

    It is increasingly clear the press conference Friday was a PR stunt, as the Mayor and UofL president apparently made no attempt to obtain proper legal permission from preservation authorities.

  4. Chuck

    May 5, 2016 at 10:54 am

    I’m calling bs that you “cringed” passing this monument when you were younger. Of course, your liberal brainwashing may have begun early in life. That fact that you begin your article by apologizing for your “white privilege” , is evidence the brainwashing is complete.

    A thorough journalist would have researched the monument’s history, the symbolism within its design, and the reasons for its erection.

    The soldiers face north out of respect for their opponents. The infantryman is “at rest”. The artillery man is also in “at rest” position. Finally, the cavalryman is returning his sword to its scabbard. All are signs of a cessation of hostilities.

    Your Nazi references are so tired and flawed. There is a monumental difference between slavery and genocide.

    You Sir, are a lazy journalist. Perhaps your privileged suburban upbringing is to blame. I was not so fortunatel.

  5. Boner

    May 13, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    I hope we move it to a more honorable location,so that little pricks like you will not have the opportunity to disrespect it,you ass sucking apologist.

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