Why are Confederate statues at the center of latest conflict in US?

Ruben Ruiz
August 22, 2017

"There's no place for that", Robert E. Lee V tells Newsweek, referring to the white supremacist protesters who carried torches and marched through Charlottesville on Friday. So who was Lee and why does a memorial to him trouble so many people?

A generation after the civil rights movement, black and Latino residents began pressuring elected officials to dismantle Confederate memorials honoring Lee and others in places like New Orleans, Houston and SC.

The Charlottesville city council voted in February for it to be removed from the recently renamed Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park).

In this interpretation, the south only lost because of the industrial might of the northern "aggressor".

Rescue workers move victims on stretchers after vehicle plowed through a crowd of counter-demonstrators marching through the downtown shopping district August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The president's sentiments on the matter of Confederate statues and memorials to Founding Fathers were literally an echo of an article written earlier today by the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. People who want to remove such monuments need to realize that to some people, the Lee memorial in Charlottesville was, according to Trump "a very, very, important statue". If you can't honor Robert E. Lee there, you can't honor him anywhere.

White supremacists take this cause one step further by stripping away any pretense of concern over discriminating on the basis of race. They are a celebration of southern identity as white. On Monday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich asked, "What if you weren't sensitive enough to the Holocaust, we should take down all the statues of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? He is absolutely right these are two very bad groups".

It was unveiled by Lee's great-granddaughter at a ceremony in May 1924.

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In the dedication address, Lee was celebrated as a hero, who embodied "the moral greatness of the Old South", and as a proponent of reconciliation between the two sections. It also tried to argue that the war was not about slavery but high constitutional ideals. The core argument is this: Confederacy was essentially built upon the premise of preserving slavery and white supremacy in the United States of America. The south fought a noble war over its right to self-determination, rather than an effort to keep millions enslaved.

Born in 1807, Lee was a commander in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. Robert E. Lee and other Confederates were simply not patriots of this country. "If I owned the four million slaves in the South I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?" She is black. "It's the South - it's part of life". Confederates were white and their monuments were celebrations of whiteness.

Shawn Alexander, associate professor of African and African-American studies at the University of Kansas, said that despite the attempt to use Lee as a reconciliation figure, many African-Americans spoke out in the black press that Lee had betrayed the US and was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.

In 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center catalogued all publicly supported spaces dedicated to the Confederacy, finding 203 examples named for Robert E. Lee.

Up until 2015, Lee's birthday was officially marked in five states. These incidents were followed by a chain reaction of debates questioning the existence of more than 1000 Confederate monuments across 31 states of the #United States.

The monument to Lee served the same goal as the legislation - to remind African Americans of their perceived place and inferiority. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists whatever you want to call them.

Like the original creators and supporters of the Lee monument, they sought to celebrate a white supremacist vision not just of the past, but of the present.

Other reports by GizPress

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