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.