There are moments in
history when our consciousness is raised out of complacency to
elevate society to a new level of good. With the events in
Charlottesville still fresh in our minds, now is such an opportunity.
Our community has an opportunity to take a fresh look at the Confederate monument in our downtown square and ask if it portrays values we look up to. What does it teach us? What does it help us to become? I have been looking at Confederate memorials with new eyes. I’ve been trying to understand more about their history and look closely at what they say explicitly and implicitly.
A bit of research finds there were two large spikes when Confederate memorials were erected. The first was in the Jim Crow era, the second during the Civil Rights Movement. Monuments erected during those times were to intimidate the black population to “stay in their place.” The monument in the heart of Gainesville Square was erected in 1909, in the Jim Crow era. This implicit message is hurtful and threatening. It has no place in our society.
Explicitly, the monument commemorates “defenders of the Confederacy” and “the record of whose fortitude and heroism in the service of their country is the proud heritage of a loyal posterity.” In “service of their country” was to the Confederate States, not the United States. How can we exalt such service to a traitorous group? And whose “proud heritage?” Certainly not those who were enslaved and had no choice, no rights in deciding their heritage.
As a white Georgia native, I’ve never considered the Civil War to be a part of my proud heritage except when I envision myself rooting for the North to save the United States and end slavery. I’m definitely not proud of our racist history. And “loyal posterity?” To whom is that plea? Every KKK member can hear that call loud and clear. We see the Confederate flags and monuments used as their warped and racist symbols of hate. Is that what Hall County wants?
For Hall County to exalt the Confederacy in the heart of Gainesville’s town square shows the world it still reveres a racist narrative and promotes an inaccurate historical message. The memorial is based upon false racist views of white supremacy. It does nothing to bring us together as a community or inspire us toward greater achievement. It is an offensive, insulting and backward symbol of a group of people and states that tried to secede from the U.S. so the abhorrent practice of slavery could continue.
Just as we are obligated to grow from our mistakes, a community should strive to recognize where it erred, to admit it and set a course to correct it. Let’s remove this monument that has nothing to glorify. If you want to preserve it accurately for history, it should be moved to a museum where the full contextual narrative can be given. Then we can be proud of ourselves for finally doing the right thing.