Whatever is done it must be done non-violently, democratically and culturally inclusively, Isaac Newton Farris Jr. writes.
First published in July 2020.
In the aftermath of the George Floyd police murder and the growing support by ALL Americans for the Black Lives Matter Movement, there are recent moves, some violent and some non-violent, to take down statues deemed offensive to a newly enlightened American society. These takedown moves appropriately raise the question of how to determine which statues must remain and which statues must go.
While there may be differences of opinion on what statues should remain standing and which statues should be taken down, every rational person should agree on how statues should be taken down. No one should resort to violence or mob-rule to take down a statue. When protesters take it upon themselves to tear down statues or deface them with graffiti, its violence run amok. Anyone who truly believes in democracy, the rule of law, or adheres to Martin Luther King Jr’s principles of non-violent protesting would reframe from doing so.
No matter how morally wrong or politically wrong the history is of the person a statue depicts, and no matter where statues are located there is a proper non-violent process to take them down. That process involves making a takedown request to the owner of the statue if it is located on private property, or to a government authority if the statue is located on public property.
The appeal can be made verbally or in writing, through a petition of signatures, by staging non-violent protest demonstrations at the site of the statue, or by conducting an economic boycott against the government owner or private owner of the statue. If the owner or government refuses the appeal the statue REMAINS in place, it is NEVER acceptable for protesters to commit the violence of deciding themselves to take down a statue or deface it with graffiti, regardless of how offended they are by it.
Statues of individuals are always erected as a sign of reverence and respect for the person the statue depicts, this naturally can create differing opinions on which statues are appropriate because one person’s God can be another person’s Devil. These differing opinions are now raising legitimate questions about which statues of individuals should remain on display in places of honor in America, and which must be taken down. The question of which statues must automatically go with no further debate is an easy one to answer.
All statues of Confederate individuals MUST GO for the following 2 reasons:
Treason and Sedition
Even if you believe the false narrative that the southern states staged the Confederate War against the United States of America for the “Lost Cause” of state rights. When the southern states attempted to remove American federal rule over them they were committing treason and sedition against America. Nowhere in the world will you find statues and monuments to persons who attempted to overthrow a lawful government. Most individuals who commit such acts end up serving time in prison not having statues erected in their honor.
Denial of Humanity
All supporters and soldiers of the Confederacy considered American Black people to be subhuman and therefore had no legitimate right to citizenship. Which is why the majority of statues of confederates where erected in 3 phases:
- 1877-1890s the end of the Reconstruction period that followed after the Civil War
- The 1920s during the rebirth of the Klu Klux Klan
- Late 1950s-early 1960s after the 1954 Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that segregation in American schools was unconstitutional
Meaning symbolically all Confederate statues are an insulting message to all American Blacks that they are considered to be more animal than human. To make matters worse a 2018 Smithsonian magazine investigation found that in the previous decade, taxpayers spent at least $40 million on Confederate statues, homes, parks, museums, libraries, cemeteries, and heritage organizations. In other words not only are American Blacks forced to be confronted with insults to their humanity, but they are also forced to pay for the inhumane insults!!!
While it is acceptable, but not preferable, for private individuals and private institutions to fund Confederate statues, homes, private parks, museums, private libraries, cemeteries, and heritage organizations it is unacceptable for public taxpayer money to ever be spent on any of these things, and no Confederate statues should be located anywhere on public property. For those who raise the issue of teaching the history of the treasonous Confederacy, public money should only be spent telling Confederate seditious history from the viewpoint of retelling the history of the United States successfully repelling the southern succession.
Since the George Floyd police murder, there have been 34 public Confederate statues either non-violently removed by governments and schools or violently by protesters. Unfortunately, as usual, the violence escalated to the irrational deeds of violently tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Ulysses S. Grant. The fate of these 5 men statues’ fall into 3 categories:
1) Must Go
Statue of Christopher Columbus. While it’s true to say that Columbus is a highlight of Italy’s history, and a conqueror who brought great riches to the Spanish crown of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, it would be a lie to say he is a part of American history because he discovered America. Columbus NEVER made it to America in 1492, the closest he ever came to America was Cuba, the Bahamas, and South America. And every place he ventured too Columbus raped, pillaged, and murdered the inhabitants. His statue deserves no place on public American soil.
2) Could Go, but Could Remain
Statue of Thomas Jefferson. Although Jefferson is the author of the iconic keystone words of America’s Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” apparently the only American Blacks he thought human enough for these words to apply too, were the 4 children he fathered with his black slave concubine surrogate wife, Sally Hemings.
Of the 175 black slaves Jefferson owned in his lifetime, these 4 children were the only slaves he ever freed. He only agreed to do so as part of a deal Hemings negotiated with Jefferson to remain his slave concubine surrogate wife. Jefferson’s slave-owning cast a dark shadow on his legacy. But the fact that he authored the Declaration of Independence and served as President of the United States, means the fate of his statue should be left to the democratic will of the community. I would vote or recommend to my government representative that his statue should remain.
Statue of Andrew Jackson. Without a doubt, the statue of Andrew Jackson is a leading candidate to be removed from public places of honor. He was a slave owner who routinely brutally beat his slaves, once publicly beating a female slave for what he termed “putting on airs.” In an 1804 newspaper advertisement for an escaped slave, he offered an extra $10 for every 100 lashes given to the escaped slave.
His 2 most heinous acts as President of the United States were his 1830s forced removal of 125,000 Native Americans. They lived on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida. Jackson forced them to walk thousands of miles, known as the Trail of Tears, to a specially designated “Indian territory” across the Mississippi River. And his refusal to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Worcester v. Georgia that established the sovereignty of tribal lands in America.
Because Jackson was the victorious Major General in the Battle of New Orleans, the concluding act in the War of 1812 and proclaimed by some as the Second War of Independence from Great Britain, many feel that he has earned a place of honor. At best Jackson has earned the opportunity for citizens to democratically decide the fate of his statue, I would vote or recommend a takedown of his statue and removal of his likeness from the 20 dollar bill.
3) MUST REMAIN STANDING!!!
Statue of George Washington. If anyone could and should be considered the father of America it’s George Washington. He was first among the equal founding fathers and voluntarily gave up potential king/tyrant powers twice, once after winning American independence by defeating the British in the Revolutionary War and refusing the suggestion by the Army to anoint himself, King. And second by voluntarily walking away from the presidency of the United States after 2 terms, when all historians agree that he could have remained and been reelected President repeatedly until the day he died in office. Washington also was the only founding father that granted freedom to his slaves. Only insanity could drive protesters to violently tear down his statue!!!
Statue of Ulysses S. Grant. If insanity drove protesters to tear down George Washington’s statue, it must be ignorance that would drive protesters to violently tear down Grant’s statue. After all, this is a man who long before he won the Civil War to keep the United States united and freed of American black slaves, gave the slave he inherited as a struggling young man with a family to feed, his freedom FREE OF CHARGE! After winning the Civil War he was elected President and as President eliminated the first generation of the Klu Klux Klan!
There is still MUCH more Confederate cleanup work to be done! The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 1,503 remaining publicly sponsored symbols honoring Confederate leaders, soldiers or the Confederate States of America in general. These include monuments and statues, flags, holidays and other observances, and the names of schools, highways, parks, bridges, counties, cities, dams, roads, and military bases.
The statues of George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant must remain standing for all time, and the statues of any Confederates and Christopher Columbus must be taken down and stay down for all time. Statues of others won’t always be as cut and dry as is in the case of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, as the values of American society continue to evolve so too will American choices, but one thing is for sure, whatever is done it must be done non-violently, democratically and culturally inclusively.🔷