Confederate monuments belong in exhibit, not on streets

Adam Tannenbaum, Staff Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

On Dec. 17, 2015 Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed a law enacting the removal of four monuments of Confederate leaders throughout New Orleans. Landrieu made the right decision to remove these statues and memorials, especially with plans to still preserve them. Despite threats and violence experienced by contractors (now withdrawn from the project), New Orleans must take the examples that other global cities have set and ensure that these statues are used as teaching moments, so atrocities of previous generations are not repeated.

Society should not throw away what could be lessons for both this and future generations. Events are recorded and history is remembered not to immortalize great men or tyrants, but so that we can understand both the mistakes and triumphs of past people. The goal of history is that people will be able to take constructive and favorable moments of the past and build on them while bearing in mind the horrid acts that have been committed by past generations, making sure not to make the same mistakes.

Despite death threats and destruction of property against the initial contractors, H&O Investments of Baton Rouge, the city must continue it’s efforts to remove the monuments from thoroughfares. After the city council decision to withhold public funding from the project, it may be some time before the project actually begins. But with an initial, anonymous donation of $170,000, hopes for this are high.

The need to funnel the money via a non-profit to protect the donor’s identity is unfortunate, but essential. There continues to be severe opposition against the project.

It is, without a doubt, wrong to have a Confederate general statue on display in the city center of a city with a population that is almost 60 percent African-American. This does not mean, however, that we should just forget about the past. New Orleans could take a page from another central European city that has done a fine job of remembering its past: Budapest.

From 1949 until 1989 statues of Lenin, Stalin and other Communist terrorizers were on display throughout the city. Once Budapest was free of the oppressive Communist government that had ruled for forty years, though, it did not destroy the statues of these tyrants. Instead, it made a park on the city outskirts that displays the statues of the Communist figures. The park is a reminder of the type of oppressive rule that can be imposed upon people if history is not used as a learning lesson.

The construction of Confederate Memorial Hall and discussion of a Confederate walk-through park for the statues are a fantastic start. Before he was the head of the Confederacy’s army, Gen. Robert E. Lee was one of the most decorated and esteemed generals to ever come out of The United States Military Academy at West Point and serve in the United States military. Let the general and his monument serve as a consequential teaching moment not out on display in the city center, but in a museum that remembers the Civil War in New Orleans.

Those that attack the effort to remove the monuments fail to see the larger picture. The Confederacy should never be forgotten, but glorifying it is imprisoning New Orleans in the past. Keeping the monuments in a reserved space is the only solution. If the lessons and events of the past are not studied and remembered, there is no way for modern people to avoid ending up on the wrong side of history.

Adam Tannenbaum is a senior in the A.B. Freeman School of Business. He can be reached at[email protected].

Leave a Comment