Felicia Bevel writes: On Friday, the city of New Orleans dismantled a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee—a symbol of the Confederacy that had loomed over the city since 1884, and a direct link to the South’s dark past. The removal completed the city’s controversial decision to take down four monuments commemorating the rise and fall of the Confederacy, including statues of Jefferson Davis, its former president, and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, as well as a monument representing the Battle of Liberty Place.
“These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for,” New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a speech Friday.
But what is the right way to deal with the legacy of white supremacy? Some argue that physical monuments glorify the Confederacy and the white supremacist, pro-slavery ideology it stood for. Other protesters decry the erasure of “Southern heritage,” thereby conveniently divorcing the Confederacy from the racism at its core. And somewhere in the middle are those who understand the troubling narrative that these statues evoke, but argue that their presence is necessary because they remind us of the nation’s horrible past. Regardless of one’s personal views, one thing is clear: It will take more than removing these four monuments from the physical landscape for New Orleans to effectively deal with white supremacy. When it comes to Southern history, out of sight does not mean out of mind. [Continue reading…]