A pressing controversy requiring immediate debate is the dilemma of removing historic statues, particularly those considering the Civil War. Republicans generally focus on keeping these statues for their historical significance or to honor those who fought in wars that they believe was over "states' rights" or some other patriotic theme. On the other hand, Democrats generally favor removal as many of these statues were put in place long after the Civil War, possibly skewing history. Democrats further wonder why statues were put in place for those who were defeated, the Confederates. Below are some of the most common arguments from either side of the political aisle.
Republicans tend to believe that the historical value of these statues outweighs the ability to offend others or misrepresent history. They claim that history could be potentially whitewashed or overly censored if these statues are taken down. They also think that Confederate Statues symbolize the country's history, no matter how complex that history is. Republicans often cite that these statues are supported by the First Amendment, which protects all opinions, not only those supported by the majority. Republicans think that removing any historical figures is a slippery slope that could lead to ever more stringent regulations on what can remain. They generally don't believe people should have the right to destroy anything they disagree with. Thus, they hated when, in riots after George Floyd's murder, statues of George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant were damaged. Some also believe that statues alone do not cause racism and could even be used to fight back against it. One potential solution could be to put plaques on the statues specifying their role as traitors rather than as American heroes. Republicans traditionally believe that racism is a festering disease of the mind; hence simply looking at a statue cannot perpetuate or influence racism.
Democrats are generally in favor of removing historic statues, believing them to be a reminder of the United States’ dark past. Democrats typically seek to remove statues of confederates who supported slavery and who were bastions of institutionalized racism in the United States. Many on the left claim that it is unacceptable to have statues of men who fought for keeping slavery since it denotes a type of approval (or at least complacency) in the face of historical evils—only serving to perpetuate the glorification of white supremacy. They also argue that leaving the statues in place sends a cruel message to groups of historically dispossessed citizens. As to keep these statues erected, suggests that the people responsible for their ancestors' suffering will always have a place in our minds, remaining idolized in a concrete form.
- Should we remove Confederate monuments?
- Should we censor history?
- If so, why?
- Do the statues represent or misrepresent the country's history?
- Is it better to explain a complicated history, or would it be in the best interest of everyone to not give attention to people who we would now consider evil?
ProCon.org. “Historic Statue Removal - Top 3 Pros & Cons.” ProCon.org, July 15, 2020. https://www.procon.org/headlines/historic-statue-removal-top-3-pros-cons/.
Walsh, Colleen. “Historian Puts the Push to Remove Confederate Statues in Context.” Harvard Gazette, June 19, 2020. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/06/historian-puts-the-push-to-remove-confederate-statues-in-context/.