By Lukas Azcurrain, age 14
Monuments that commemorate Confederate soldiers and other racist historical figures whose fortunes were built on the slave trade have been at the forefront of recent conversations in the United States.
After the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement was revitilized, and people started to take to the streets to fight against police brutality and for equal rights. The nearly nine-minute long video showing the murder of George Floyd was undeniably barbaric and cruel, so it opened many people’s eyes to the police brutality and institutional racism that exists in the United States. I found it disturbing that for many—mainly white—people to finally realize how horrendous racism is in this country, they had to see a video of a man being smothered to death in cold blood.
This sudden consciousness that people gained on how Black people are being treated in the United States started to make people question things that have racially offensive connotations, and many statues around the country and the world became targets. The article, “Reconsidering the Past, One Statue at a Time,” published by the New York Times, states that “The push [to remove statues] has largely been welcomed by activists from the Black Lives Matter movement who see Confederate and other monuments as reminders of the oppressive history.” I think this makes a compelling and seemingly obvious point. To have a statue of Confederate men who fought to conserve slavery would be comparable to Germany having statues of Nazi soldiers, which would be insensitive, offensive and racist. If we want to be an anti-racist nation, we have to get rid of, at the very least, the monuments that glorify racist people.
The argument against the removal of the Confederate statues is that, by removing them, we are “erasing history,” and doing so would be unpatriotic. Instead, the statues do the opposite. The statues venerate Confederate generals who don’t deserve to be hailed with a statue. To keep the statues would be to continue to fuel the United States’ whitewashed history. The Confederates fought a war to secede from the United States, which could be viewed as the most unpatriotic thing possible. Why not honor people who were genuinely patriotic? Why are Confederates the people we choose to pay tribute to?
People all around the United States have been toppling statues, burning them and severely defacing them. According to a video on Business Insider, over 100 statues have been taken down in America over the past five years. This phenomenon of taking down statues that lionize racist white men is becoming a global affair. Activists in Brussels, Belgium, have petitioned against and defaced statues, including one of Belgium’s most brutal colonizers, King Leopold II. The BBC reported that the people of Brussels collected 74,000 signatures to get a particular statue of Leopold taken down.
In the end, I along with many others believe that these statues need to come down. Personally, as a white male, I don’t feel comfortable with them remaining in place, and I am sure that any Black person who walked by a Confederate statue would be even more uncomfortable. These men symbolize the epitome of racism. They symbolize the terror and hatred put upon Black people by white people throughout history. They symbolize slavery, and no one should be comfortable with a statue that symbolizes slavery.
Anti-racist: A person who opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance
Venerate: Regard with great respect
Whitewashed: To alter (something) in a way that favors, features or caters to white people
Lionize: Give public or special attention and approval to someone