By Janet Dake —
A Neo Nazi protest in Charlottesville, Virginia has fueled a growing controversy across the country about removing Confederate monuments.
On Aug. 12, a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville turned violent. The afternoon – which from the beginning had aggressive clashing between polarized groups – ended with violence, injury and death.
Kentucky native James Fields is charged with speeding a car into a group of counterprotesters. In the process, Fields allegedly killed 32- year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injured 19 others.
In a country which has been struggling with race relations, some were still shocked.
Others, not so much.
U of L Professor and Chair of the Pan-African Studies Department, Ricky Jones, is one of the latter.
Jones, who researches violence and resistance and African American politics and leadership, described the events as “illuminating.” He said it points to ongoing issues the black community faces as a result of white supremacy.
Jones, who has written for the Courier-Journal on race and the removal of U of L’s own Confederate monument, is very clear on his stance.
“My thought is that all 700-plus statues and memorials to the Confederacy in this country should be destroyed,” Jones said. “Not moved to a museum, but destroyed.”
In an interview with Jones, he touches one of the primary arguments against Confederate statue removal.
“The argument that they often make – and the Governor of this state has made this argument – is that removing Confederate monuments is, in effect, sanitizing history,” said Jones. “That is a damn lie.”
He supports this by citing the historic reasons behind the Civil War. “If you read the Articles of Secession, they tell you very clearly what the Civil War was about. The Confederates themselves tell you it was about slavery.”
For example, South Carolina’s articles specifically cite “increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding states to the institution of slavery” as one of the primary reasons for secession.
Instead, Jones said Governor Matt Bevin and others are the ones “who want to sanitize history.”
U of L only removed its own 70-foot Confederate monument, donated by the Kentucky Women’s Confederate Monument Association in 1895, in 2016 — 121 years after its erection.
But this was not without opposition to its removal. Jones, who was outspoken in the controversy, noted the team effort it took to have the monument taken down.
“The president we had at the time, James Ramsey – for whatever flaws people want to criticize him for – was on board with its removal. And the mayor Greg Fischer was on board as well.”
And, according to a new poll by The Cardinal, many on campus want to move the statues too.
According to the Twitter poll, 54 percent of respondents think Confederate statues should be moved. Twenty seven percent disagree, and 19 percent said they don’t care.
U of L student Rachel Pillitteri, who identifies as liberal, is part of the percentage which doesn’t have strong feelings either way.
“I don’t agree that keeping the statues up will be a preservation of history. Isn’t that what history books are for?” Pillitteri said. “We can remember the people that the statues were built for and we can acknowledge what they stood for, but we don’t need them up.”
The results from the poll are not necessarily surprising.
Universities tend to be largely progressive environments, according to the New York Times. Jones says, that’s because Louisville is a politically liberal hubbub in the middle of a conservative state.