Confederate Statue Controversy
The Confederate Statue Controversy
During a recent short trip to New England, we followed the disturbing news from Charlottesville; we were glued to the radio the entire two-day drive home. Early on, the reporting brought up the role of art, as cultural disputes over values played out.
Days later, we took note of a series of art related events that occurred as push back: All 17 remaining members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned in protest on the Friday following the President’s controversial response. We also took note of the fact that Boston’s Holocaust Memorial was vandalized for the second time in two months on Tuesday of that turbulent week. We noted that several U.S. cities announced plans to remove Confederate monuments in the wake of violence in Charlottesville. (Source: Hyperallergic.com)
Art is an important element in human culture because artistic works often give expression and a face for a culture. An argument against a community’s removal of a statue was to preserve the history and heritage of the South. For some white European descendants who revered the work that sounds like a warm and fuzzy version of a Hollywood movie of the South. White washing a splintery fence does not remove the splinters. People celebrate these former leaders who killed or enslaved human beings and treated them like animals as heroes for their inhumane accomplishments. Those leaders must not be revered and memorialized, aas if they were honorable human beings for a good cause.
If communities were serious about fully expressing their history they would replace the controversial sculptures and monuments with new ones. The new monuments could celebrate the cultures and contributions of all peoples–African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans and others who have historically worked toward building unity and a better country for all as part of our national heritage. That’s what an American Heritage should look like. It’s not about “political correctness.” It’s about human decency, respect, and honesty.
As for the statues that communities are removing, we would beg that they not be destroyed and melted down, but that they are collected in a context, not of aggrandizement and reverence, but of national consciousness of our mistakes, our sins, our opportunities to learn from the past and do better going forward.