by: David M. Helfrich - June 15, 2020
A few days ago - Tennessee lawmakers rebuked a demand from its citizens demanding that the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest (Confederate General and the first Grand Wizard of the KKK) be removed from its State Capitol. Think about that: the founder of the KKK's statue still adorns the halls of a State Capitol in the United States - on public grounds. While this may surprise those who are new to this topic - for those who have long grown tired of the egregious appeasement of Confederate Terrorism - this is par-for-the-course.
The Confederacy lost the Civil War - but it won the ensuing culture wars for 100+ years. As of just last year (2019), there were 1,747 Confederate symbols and nearly 800 Confederate monuments on public property in the U.S. Over 60 of those monuments were erected in states that didn't even secede from the Union. Over 100 public K-12 schools are named after Confederates. Most of these monuments weren't even erected immediately following the Civil War - but many decades later in the 20th century (from 1920-1960) during the height of Jim Crow and the KKK - typifying the kind of long-standing endearment America has had for the Confederacy: the most dangerous terrorist organization in U.S. history that did everything in its power to destroy this country.
In contrast, where were the statues built to honor abolitionists, Blacks, and Union soldiers? We had no problem enshrining the slavers and KKK grand wizards on public property, yet one struggles to find any memorials celebrating the likes of Denmark Vesey, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, or Thaddeus Stevens. Most Americans will struggle to even recall who these people are, yet they assuredly know the name of Robert E. Lee - an unabashed white supremacist, violent slaver, and Confederate general who led the charge to destroy America from within and preserve the institution of slavery for generations to come. And yet he (and thousands of other Confederate terrorist monuments/symbols) still adorn public property throughout this nation.
After the South was defeated, they weren't just tolerated as a defeated army to be rehabilitated back into society. To the contrary, the Confederacy was venerated, celebrated, and elevated as if they had actually been the victor of the war. For example: Edward Douglass White - a Confederate terrorist - went on to become chief justice of the Supreme Court. Zebulon Vance - another Confederate terrorist - eventually became governor of North Carolina and a U.S. Senator. Confederate, racist ideology survived the Civil war only to enshrine itself within our institutions.
This isn't about "erasing history" - this is about coming to grips with the fact that America has never faced its racist past, atoned for its sins, or engaged in meaningful reconciliation - which has suppressed this pent-up energy for centuries to where it has now reached a bottle-neck of eruption all around us because our "leaders" of yesteryear didn't have the wisdom, moral fortitude, or courage to lead after the Civil War instead of buckling to Confederate culture at every turn.
Imagine if during the aftermath of World War II, Germany built hundreds of statutes lionizing Nazi generals, named their schools after Nazis, and appointed former Nazi leaders to the highest level of its government. Further, imagine if Nazi flags still were raised in German government buildings, or at its sporting events, or accepted by its citizens as a symbol of "heritage". Why don't we see that? Because Germany confronted its demons, reconciled culturally and structurally via reparations, expunged any vestige of Nazism on its public grounds, and banned its flag on both public and private property.
You know, actual leadership.
President Donald Trump (a long-time fanboy of the Confederacy) has been adamant about keeping these Confederate symbols of hate right where they are, claiming they have been integral to America’s history of “Winning, Victory and Freedom”. That's right, President Trump attributes "winning, victory and freedom" with the Confederacy -- an army that lost and whose entire purpose was to both stifle freedom and enslave as many humans as it could.
This is America. Not 1860 America. 2020 America. So when you see all of the protest, energy and activism pouring out into the streets - realize that it's America trying to finally - after centuries - declare that the Confederacy actually lost the Civil War. Perhaps now - as tensions in America reach a crescendo - the Confederacy will also lose the cultural war for America's soul that it should have lost 155 years ago.
About the Author:
David M. Helfrich explores the intersection between politics, global affairs, and consciousness. Steeped in the tradition of social justice at Howard University, David analyzes current events in relation to social justice, metaphysics, human, civil, and universal rights.