It was 246 years from the introduction of African slaves into the colony of Virginia to the end of the Civil War in 1865. That was 154 years ago. Do we have to spend another 92 years before all of the effects of slavery are completely gone? Forty-one of the 57 signers of the Declaration of Independence were slaveholders as were 25 of 55 signers of the Constitution. Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Polk and Tyler all held slaves while they were in office.
Many people in the South might say that the ethnic and racial groups here are basically two: whites and blacks. But this is not to say that there aren't other groups and numerous examples of ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is simply judging people using ourselves as the standard of what is correct and proper. It should come as no surprise that hose judged are mostly found to be lacking.
Joseph Kennedy, patriarch of the political clan could remember signs in Boston and other parts of New England that read, "No Irish need apply." In the nineteenth century political cartoonists depicted the Irish as apes and Eastern Europeans, particularly Jews, as rodents. In Upton Sinclair's reform novel, "The Jungle," the slaughterhouse workers in Chicago were Lithuanian. These people were called "Bohunks." Only smart enough to shovel guts in the slaughterhouse. Chinese coming to America achieved a dubious distinction. Fearing yellow, voting citizens, Congress passed legislation in 1882 that said that Chinese immigrants could never become citizens.
It may well be true that the majority of Confederate soldiers did not own slaves but 50% of the officer corps did and many soldiers had a familial link to slavery. In the period from 1850 to 1860 with the South drifting toward secession, Southerners made the case that the South was qualitatively different from the North. Agricultural vs, industrial and commercial, religion, respect for history and tradition, states rights as opposed to an overreaching federal government and grasping, soulless capitalism. These ideas would be reinforced in the period after the Civil War. What good thing can be made from a defeat? The period after the War saw the creation of the idea of the Old South, an idea that flourished in the period from 1880 till around 1930. Monuments were constructed to the Old South, to the Confederacy and to the soldiers and politicians who had forged the Confederate States of America. Today, particularly among Black Americans, these monuments are offensive. Are you endorsing slavery and more than a hundred years of the deprivation of civil rights?
According to the highly political Southern Poverty Law Center there are 1505 Confederate monuments in the United States. There are 174 in Georgia: 61 in Florida and 56 in Kentucky. But there are Confederate monuments to be found in Iowa, Colorado and even Hawaii. The first monument was raised in 1867. 110 monuments in 22 states have been removed: this from a total of 1500 monuments. Even the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the Museum of Natural History in New York has drawn ire. Roosevelt had racist views. He was a hero of the Spanish-American War which some see as a war against the brown people of the Philippines. He regarded Native-Americans as a primitive and backward race inevitably on the decline and he was embroiled in a controversy with his Georgia relatives over his inviting Black leader, Booker T. Washington, to dine at the White House.
The Jefferson Davis Capture Site is in Fitzgerald, Georgia and the surrounding Jefferson Davis State Park is some 12,000. the capture site was added to the National historic register in 1980 and features a Civil War museum. What to do? What does one do with the monument stature to General Nathan Bedford? Forest, a Confederate cavalry commander had been a slave trader and had helped to found the Ku Klux Klan and he had ordered the massacre of black Union troops at the fall of Fort pillow in South Carolina. What do we do with that huge monument to the Confederacy, Stone Mountain?
Savannah Georgia might give us some guidance. Along its Riverway is a bust of the Spanish explorer, DeSoto. Savannah marks the northern boundary of Spanish exploration. A plaque explains the importance of DeSoto, but it also details the often disastrous impact that Spanish exploration had on Native Americans impact that Spanish exploration had on Native Americans. The bust of DeSoto faces the South the domain of the Catholic enemy, the Spanish in Florida.
In Forsyth Park there is a 48-foot tall column topped by a Confederate soldier. He too faces the enemy: he faces north. The column and stature were erected in 1875 and local lore has it that the statue and column, crafted in Canada, were shipped by water to Savannah so that the monument did not have to cross "enemy territory." Today that monument has been renamed a monument to all of the soldiers of the Civil War.
To be sure there is still much to be done. Providing a full historical context for events seems to be a sound policy. One might keep in mind the spiritual advice that "There is only one thing that evil cannot stand and that is forgiveness."