This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.
New Orleans’ City Council began debating a complicated issue Aug. 13: whether the display of Confederate monuments around the city is appropriate. This issue followed the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting in June, which spurred protests calling for the removal of the Confederate flag above the South Carolina State House in Columbia.
Finally, Dec. 17, the New Orleans City Council voted. In a six-to-one decision, four monuments addressed in the proposal will be removed. The monuments coming down are the statues of generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, confederate president Jefferson Davis and an obelisk to the Battle of Liberty Place, which is inscribed with a statement connected to white supremacy.
The City Council made the right decision here. Confederate symbols in a diverse city perpetuate racial inequality by celebrating a history of slavery and racism. Removing the monuments and displaying them in a museum as Mayor Mitch Landrieu has requested would respect the historical relevance of these monuments without honoring the Confederacy, as their prominent placement in the city currently does. These monuments are unequivocal reminders of a deeply divisive and violent racial past. In a truly post-racial society, this would not be debated. Racist monuments should not stand. It is time to move forward and this is an important step on the pathway to progress and equality.
Since this has been a hotly debated issue, there is a large amount of opposition. This faction consists of people claiming that it is important to protect the cultural heritage of the city. The concept of cultural heritage, however, assumes that all heritage is good heritage. The violent protection of racism is not honorable and pride in this shameful history should not be encouraged.
The other major argument against the removal of the monuments claims this censors history and denies freedom of speech by blocking access to historical fact. This is not a good basis for argument, as these monuments are not going to be incinerated. Mayor Landrieu’s intention is to display them as a history lesson. In fact, many educational resources about New Orleans’ Confederate past exist, including the Confederate Memorial Hall, near the soon-to-be previous Lee Circle.
With such a staggering majority voting to remove the Confederate monuments, it is clear that these mementos to injustice should not stand. It is inappropriate and unacceptable to honor a history of slavery, racism and injustice. Removing these monuments does not bar free speech. It does not censor history or pretend it never occurred. The purpose of removing these monuments is to stop honoring a history of which we should not be proud. New Orleans must follow through with this step towards progress.
Sarah is a freshman in Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]