The Stubborn Persistence of Confederate Monuments

The Atlantic:

A timeline of the genesis of the Confederate sites shows two notable spikes. One comes around the turn of the 20th century, just after Plessy v. Ferguson, and just as many Southern states were establishing repressive race laws. The second runs from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s—the peak of the civil-rights movement. In other words, the erection of Confederate monuments has been a way to perform cultural resistance to black equality.

Fittingly, in this era of Black Lives Matter and criminal-justice reform, there’s once again a reactionary backlash involving Confederate monuments. The goal here isn’t to build more—that seems outlandish to all but the most hardened neo-Confederates—but instead to defend the ones that exist. In Louisiana, legislators tried to pass a bill that would ban the removal of Confederate monuments, but the bill seems to have stalled for the moment. In Virginia, a similar bill made it as far as the desk of Governor Terry McAuliffe, who vetoed it. North Carolina’s version made it into law.

The fierce resistance when Confederate monuments are in question stands as a reminder of the issues at stake in the Civil War, and the ways in which they remain unsettled in contemporary American society. It is perhaps a more eloquent and evocative reminder than any of the 1,500 remaining Confederate symbols can ever be.

 

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