Speaking as a person born and raised in west Texas, even I don’t understand why the South takes so much pride in the dozens of “Robert E. Lee” schools and numerous statues and monuments dedicated to Confederate soldiers. To claim it’s about heritage and not hate is the most ignorant — and most frequent, in my experience — response and makes no sense whatsoever, unless your heritage IS hate.
These men did not fight for honor, but instead fought for the right to own people and treat them as nothing more than property. They drew a line in the sand and basically said, “If we cannot own people, then we no longer want to be part of America, and if you send any American soldier to try and stop us, we will fight them to the death.” They formed their own nation, elected their own president, and willingly fought against American soldiers, all for the right to own slaves. No matter how some try to rewrite history, this was an act of treason.
Another argument I often hear and don’t understand is, “The statues are a reminder, if we take them down then we’ll forget our history.” While I do think history is a very important subject, (biased opinion- my father was a history teacher) this claim doesn’t make sense either. You could easily swap out Confederate statues with those of Union soldiers, or even of monuments dedicated to the countless slaves who were beaten and murdered at the hands of Southern owners, and maybe instead of feeling contentment, we’ll instead feel empathy and never again repeat the atrocities that took place.
Even in my town, there’s a petition going around to rename our Robert E. Lee Middle School to just a generic public school name. There is also a counter-petition to keep the name as-is, and each day the number of signers on the petitions gets closer to being equal. I find it ironic that people are fighting hard to keep the name of the man who actually was opposed to such recognition. Robert E. Lee wrote about Confederate monuments and felt that having monuments dedicated to the South would keep division in the nation and he wanted to follow the example of other nations and have no reminder of civil strife, and instead focus on reunification. I’m also certain that Robert E. Lee never stepped foot in my town, so to have a school named after him when we have numerous local heroes, soldiers, and celebrities who deserve recognition feels dishonorable.
Arguments in favor of Confederate monuments make as much sense in 2020 as they did when they were first erected. It’s not about heritage, it’s not about forgetting history, it’s about ignorance. It’s about honoring men who were on the wrong side of history and keeping reminders of a time when our nation was more divided than ever. Every nation has terrible moments in their history, but instead of viewing ours solemnly and with embarrassment, we choose to celebrate it and fight against its removal. It appears as though Robert E. Lee was right — having monuments dedicated to the South keeps our nation divided.