This summer, a white nationalist rally protesting the removal of Confederate statues in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked a national debate.
Supporters of the removal argue that statues of Confederate leaders are symbols of white supremacy, and only help to encourage hate groups that appear to have been given new momentum under the Trump administration. In reality, the removal of statues – however controversial – does little to fix the issues actually oppressing minorities in America.
Whether the monuments stand or not, black Americans will still face a poverty rate 13 percent higher than white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found the unemployment rate for blacks is 7.3 percent, much higher than the national average of 4.2 percent, and farther still from the 3.7 percent of whites.
Factually, there’s no denying black Americans are at an economic disadvantage compared to whites. The removal of confederate statues will not help a single one of them. It will not drop the unemployment rate. It will not heighten the test scores of black children in underperforming school districts. If anything, the uproar over confederate monuments only distracts from real issues facing many black people every day.
Politicians are more than happy to remove Confederate statues. It’s easy, popular and gives the illusion that they’ve taken on an important issue, without actually doing any work to better their community.
In a recent interview with National Public Radio, Andrew Young, a lifelong civil rights activist who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr., argued that not only do those advocating for the removal of confederate monuments lose focus of what’s really oppressing them, but doing so also alienates potential civil rights allies.
“This is a total distraction that is undercutting most of the progress we’ve made ... these are kids who grew up free, and they don’t realize what still enslaves them – and it’s not those monuments,” Young said.
It seems the majority of black Americans agree. In a poll conducted by NPR, 44 percent of African Americans said statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy should remain as a historical symbol, compared to 40 percent who thought they should be removed. Nationwide, 62 percent of adults believe confederate monuments should not be taken down.
President Trump’s response to the controversy was met with outrage when he tweeted condemning the statue removal and suggesting that next, people would call for the removal of monuments to Washington and Jefferson.
Despite the backlash, it took only hours for the President’s prediction to come true. That very evening, a fringe group of campus lefties called for statues of Washington, Jefferson and even Abraham Lincoln (evidently because he didn’t abolish slavery soon enough) to be pulled down.
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice sees the statues as a reminder of history, something especially important for those who weren’t apart of it.
“You don’t have to honor the purposes of people whose history now shows that they were on the other side of history, but you better be able to remind people. So, I myself am not much for whitewashing history” Rice said in an interview with Cameron Smith.
Taking down monuments of our nation’s leaders because they were involved in a dark part of our nation’s history prevents future generations from learning from past mistakes. Instead, monuments should be added to or revised – a statue of Robert E. Lee with a description of what the Confederacy stood for is more beneficial, and certainly more accessible, than a textbook in a high school history class or an exhibit at a museum.
The removal of Confederate statues not only erases history, but also provides politicians and political activists a chance to look favorable in the eyes of the liberal public without making any real change for the better. Melting down Robert E. Lee will only distract and divide a country that needs to be united if its racial barriers are to be broken down.
Caroline Knight is a junior at Durango High School and co-head editor at El Diablo, the DHS student newspaper. Her parents are Preston and Renée Knight of Durango.