In this exceptional (and sobering) article, Smithsonian Magazine reveals that millions of taxpayer dollars are being used to support and maintain monuments to the Confederacy, monuments that promulgate a false, non-historical view of slavery and the Civil War.
To address this explosive issue in a new way, we spent months investigating the history and financing of Confederate monuments and sites. Our findings directly contradict the most common justifications for continuing to preserve and sustain these memorials.
First, far from simply being markers of historic events and people, as proponents argue, these memorials were created and funded by Jim Crow governments to pay homage to a slave-owning society and to serve as blunt assertions of dominance over African-Americans.
Second, contrary to the claim that today’s objections to the monuments are merely the product of contemporary political correctness, they were actively opposed at the time, often by African-Americans, as instruments of white power.
Finally, Confederate monuments aren’t just heirlooms, the artifacts of a bygone era. Instead, American taxpayers are still heavily investing in these tributes today. We have found that, over the past ten years, taxpayers have directed at least $40 million to Confederate monuments — statues, homes, parks, museums, libraries and cemeteries — and to Confederate heritage organizations.
I was recently talking with my pastor, who is from the South, about the legacy of the Civil War, and how many in the South continue to hold onto notions that the Confederacy was a noble enterprise that should’ve won the Civil War. (This is commonly referred to as the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.”)
It’s simply mind-boggling that such attitudes are still maintained in the face of damning evidence that the Confederacy’s primary reason for existing was the defense of slavery — that the Confederacy was, indeed, something evil. And yet here we are in 2018, with people still treating Jefferson Davis’ home as a shrine even as the wounds inflicted by the Confederacy’s philosophy continue to fester and eat away at our country.
This country of ours will never start to heal until we confront and deal honestly with the sins in our past.
Sidenote: The picture that accompanies the Smithsonian article — that of a young black student responding to a Confederate flag with a mixture of disbelief and side-eye — is perfect.