Donald Trump, along with many of his supporters, have a really warped understanding of American history. This is especially true when it comes to the Civil War, a battle fought over slavery, not states’ rights. If you ask almost any Confederate sympathizer, you will likely get the answer that it wasn’t about slavery, but the aggression of the Northern states against the South.
To put things into perspective, the Union was migrating to an industrial economy where factories were replacing slave labor. The South was many decades behind, relying on slave labor to produce goods, especially cotton. The Confederate states wanted to hold on to the old way of life, just like Trump supporters do today.
Yes, the Civil War was about states’ rights. But it was about the rights of slave states to continue expanding their reach into new areas while resisting moving to an industrial economy that didn’t depend on forced labor. These historical facts elude many people who want to claim that the Union was the aggressive party, even though members of the Confederacy fired the first shots at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
Slavery was built into this country. A number of the Founding Fathers owned other human beings, and Thomas Jefferson even fathered children with one of his slaves. Yet, people who are protesting the removal of monuments to soldiers of a short, four-year period and a losing cause to preserve slavery – especially here in Louisiana.
To quote my friend Lamar White, Jr:
…if you truly care about defending Louisiana’s history, then you should resist those who fetishize or romanticize the Confederacy, because those four pathetic years do not deserve sentimentality; they do not warrant public glorification or validation.
Let us instead celebrate the lives and the legacies of those among us who were brave enough to tell their stories of enslavement, and, in so doing, bend the arc of history toward justice.
Let us honor, instead, those among us who fought to perfect our union, not those who battled to preserve pernicious and institutionalized cruelty against our own citizens. (Cenlamar.com)
Taking down these monuments to slavery and white supremacy is not erasing history. You don’t see many markers honoring the British soldiers who died in the Revolution or the War of 1812. The same goes for nearly every other war that we have fought in, because history is written by the victors, not the people who lost.
The place for the statues of Robert E. Lee and other losing participants of the Civil War is in a museum. There is one in Lexington, VA where I was born which contains Lee’s stuffed horse and other parts of his life. Washington and Lee University is an appropriate place to have these things, because that is where he worked as president of the school after the war was over.
It’s time for the South to move into the 21st century. How can we expect anyone else to take us seriously when we still have monuments to white supremacy and the Civil War, and continually vote bigots into office? I know that racism exists everywhere in America, not just the South, but we sure as hell display a lot more prominently than anywhere else, especially in our public squares.