Why it matters to remove Confederate statues

Opinion: Columns

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Joe Kransdorf

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I began reading John Hubbuch's July 22 column in agreement with his opening thought that the coming election for President "should be a layup" for Joe Biden. As I read further, however, I became alarmed as Mr. Hubbuch expressed the idea that Biden does not need to be baited into side issues like Civil War monuments … "pretty much anything AOC is for." What a racist, sexist, ageist remark. We already had a candidate that ran a campaign like that in 2016. She lost.

But then Hubbuch compounds his error. He says most Americans do not know or care who Jefferson Davis was, what century the Civil War was fought, and that relatively few people care about these statues except for those on the far left. Wow, what incredible ignorance: of history, geography, culture and politics. 

Most white Southerners know who Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and the other Confederate traitors were. They were taught in elementary school onwards that these men were "heroes" for fighting to defend the Southern way of life from the "War of Northern Aggression." That's how the Civil War was characterized in Southern segregated white classrooms. 

Black people, North and South, know who these traitors were and what they stood for: the preservation and expansion of slavery. Simply stated, beginning in the 1890s, these Confederate generals and politicians were resurrected and placed on pedestals throughout the South to re-establish white supremacy as the predominant ideology of the states of the former Confederacy and in the United States generally. White supremacy became a convenient argument to justify the subjugation of black people in the South and non-white peoples globally during the age of Imperialism.

Robert E. Lee was not a hero or faithful soldier of his homeland. He was first and foremost, a slave owner and defender of the institution of slavery. Slavery was the legal regime of rape, torture, genital mutilation, family separation, and the robbery of the fruits of one's labor based solely on one's skin color.  For this reason, the symbols of the Confederacy and the idealization of its leaders in the form of statues in prominent public places is an abomination that should no longer be tolerated in our country if we are to truly make Black Lives Matter.

Mr. Hubbuch, you say few people feel passionately about these statues. If that were true, why have they continued to remain in the centers of cities throughout the South up to the present day? Why weren't they torn down when the Civil Rights Movement ended legal segregation and denial of the right to vote? Why is it only now that the Confederate flag is being banned from NASCAR or the state flag of Mississippi? 

The reason is that only now, after the death by torture of George Floyd, have the scales fallen from the eyes of many white people. Floyd's death has riveted their gaze to the reality of white supremacy's existence in the minds of white police officers and American society in general. White supremacy and its many symbols perpetuate the oppression and dehumanization of Black people. These symbols, the Confederate flag and Confederate traitor politicians and warriors must be treated as the abominations they truly are, not dismissed as some left-wing obsession.

Donald Trump wants to continue to wave the Confederate flag, protect the statues of Confederate traitors and torturers, and leave U.S. Army forts named for traitors and losers. 

Please don't join him in these pursuits. Trump uses white supremacist ideas to attempt to rally his base and divide natural political allies. Don't help him.

Joe Kransdorf is an Oak Park resident.

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