We do not learn from statues. Despite what some people might think, statues do not come down from their pedestals and give us blow by blow accounts of what happened. This would be somewhat strange as the statues were not present at the times of the events. But who a society erects a statue to is important because it tells you about that society? Just as important is the context in which those statues are displayed. Do later generations, for instance, make a plaque that notes the less than stellar reputations, at least by modern standards. How does one address Jefferson’s demand of rights with his forbidding rights and personhood to those he owned? But it should be addressed simply because the myth is far more dangerous than the truth.
The view of the Confederacy by certain people in the United States is a prime example of this. It is not uncommon, regardless of where you are in the US to encounter a person who will say something along the lines of “slavery wasn’t that bad”. At least the people were fed, they will claim. They had a roof over their head. Or even more unbelievable, they could leave any time they wanted. These same people will tell you that the Civil War was fought over states rights, not slavery.
The same people who, if we are being kind, were never taught that slavery was the first issue in the Constitutions for the confederate states, that if it were state’s rights then the Confederate government would not have taken slaves to work for the army. If we are not being kind, these same people are racist and or white supremist. And these people are the ones who claim that Confederate statues are doing no harm and represent great Americans.
Which is funny because they wanted to leave America so they could own people.
The North of course has its own issues. We are not honest about when slavery started or the impact in terms of the economic. And the North adjected responsibly after the Civil War and allowed the South to control the narrative, including the statues to Confederates, which was largely done by the daughters of the Confederacy.
Neiman’s book points out how radically different this is even from Germany and how it confronted (and confronts) the actions of the country during the Holocaust and Second World War. The book, she says, was originally conceived to include Ireland, and considering how in depth this book was, I really hope she writes it.
Neiman traces the uses of history in both post war Germany states as well as the use of memory after the reunification of the country. Her analysis points out things that you might not be aware of – like the lack of any memorial to the victims of colonization or the lack of a national memorial to say Harriet Tubman. More important, Neiman shows the important of why such a debate and a desire to remove the statues is important. Her tone I engrossing and the book is compelling read.
The above was the review I posted on GR, and in the span of less than a day (I think), there has been an illustration of why those statues should come down. Ted Cruz, the Senator from Texas who looks like he is either a murderer or a child molester, was extremely upset that Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. It was her work on the 1619 project, which addresses slavery starting from America's founding as colonies. (I think he was pretty poed at the other winners to, tbh, because the Opera about the Central Park Five won for music, Whitehead won for fiction, and IDA B WELLS got acknowledged, among others). It is not too surprising that Cruz would get his panties in a twist considering that he is from Texas, a state where the school board standard group saw fit to removed Harriet Tubman from the history books.
No, I am not joking.
But, yeah, those statues need to go (put them in a museum or a cemetery but not a public memorial).