March 19, 2017 · OPINION
Moving statues does nothing to change history
The Robert E. Lee statue, which the Charlottesville City Council voted, 3-2, to move.
By Tina Nagy
In a symbolic gesture of contrition, Charlottesville City Council members voted to remove the nearly-century old Robert E. Lee statue because of the depicted person’s “ties to slavery.”
To all of the social justice warriors out there, I would just like to ask: What exactly do you mean to accomplish with this? Do you mean to try to erase our relationship to the past? How does moving all these statues to a different place serve to make slavery go away?
And as long as we are moving statues, should we also remove the portraits in every museum of every president or politician throughout American history who ever owned a slave? Should we close down Mt. Vernon, the historical plantation of George Washington? And what about the Jefferson memorial in Washington D.C.?
And if so, should we also consider demolishing the White House because of its ties to slavery? (“I live in a house built by slaves,” Michelle Obama angrily proclaimed at a recent conference. Yet here, in the beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia, and throughout the South, in fact, nearly every historical landmark has ties to slavery. So when and where does this madness stop?
And to all of the bleeding hearts who weep because of America’s historical ties to slavery, may I just remind you that slavery was a part of the fabric of everyday life in every single country of the world for thousands of years. And, as lamentable and regrettable a fact as that is, we can not undo it, through any action, symbolic or otherwise.
Slavery took place among the nations of Africa, who sold their slaves to the merchant ships who brought them to America. It took place throughout Asia and Europe, and yes, it even took place among the tribes of the Native American Indians. It certainly was not unique to white America.
And may I remind you too that slavery is still going on! It continues in places like Africa, Korea, and China, and everywhere in every country in the form of human trafficking and forced prostitution, affecting in large part those who are most vulnerable among us: teens and children.
So rather than stirring up ire and wallowing in the sins of the past and dividing this nation once again by rooting out every offending confederate flag or statue, would it not be better to work to abolish slavery by focusing our efforts to aid those people it still touches?
Jim Griffin · March 21, 2017 at 2:41 pm
Disagreed with the writer: We should both do something and celebrate art about it. They are mutually supportive, not exclusive.
It is too easy to say we should ignore art and focus on whatever change art urges. Art is change, affects us deeply, so we are here discussing it decades later.
I favor public art and am fine with the public decorating however it sees fit at the time. I am neither offended by the art, wishing it were gone nor do I wish it to remain unending.
That moving the art does not change history misses the point. It is art. Decoration. Do what you will, let it stimulate discussions like these, enrage some, delight others. It is playing its role, do with it as you like.
As Virginians, we will feel obligated to defend things as they were, but whatever change is made will be more art still and that is for the better.
RMd. · March 21, 2017 at 12:00 pm
I agree with Ms. Nagy, Galem, Elizabeth Simon. Moving the statues does nothing to erase history and history wasn't an all-European enterprise but, goes as far back as recorded history and maybe further. The Egyptians enslaved each other and non-Egyptians as well; Africans enslaved each other and non-Africans, and so on. White Europeans pretty much enslaved white sharecroppers/peasant farmers into the 1940s (and maybe longer) in America.
It would be better, imho, to recognize the statues and remember not to repeat that kind of history, than to put them "out of sight and out of mind" as if it never happened.
Traverse · March 21, 2017 at 10:48 am
Excellent article by Tina Nagy.
I would add that many early American slave holders were non-whites. Almost all of the African leaders that sold thier own countrymen into slavery were black. Slavery has never been an exclusively white European institution.
There are many reasons why the civil war happened, and slavery was indeed the main catalyst used by southern Democrat politicians and slave owners, and northern abolitionists to start the war. But the truth is, that most of the Confederate generals, including Lee, who's statue is being removed, did not fight for slavery, but rather to repel what they felt was a foriegn invasion, and to protect thier homes and families. Lee wrote to his wife that "slavery is a moral and political evil". Lee and most other southern historical figures now being purged from the public square, were honorable men, and the slandering of their reputations, and their true historical significance by the left, is deeply disturbing.
galem116 · March 20, 2017 at 11:59 am
How intelligent this article is! I don't wish to insult anyone, but somehow this has all gotten our of hand, and I agree with the writer, we cannot remove everything wrong from our history that is related to slavery or anything else we don't like. History is what helps us learn how to do things in a better way. Our History is what our children and grandchildren will learn from, just as we learn from our forefathers history. What's the next thing to go, burning books to remove our history? That is what Hitler tried to do years ago.
As stated in this article, how much better it would be to learn to fight slavery today by removing the means for anyone to be enslaved, anywhere in the world. Our efforts are much better used in this way and could erase slavery from our world, hopefully forever.
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