Tulane should address symbols of Confederate past

Sarah Simon, Contributing Reporter

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The following is an opinion article and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

As Tulane students, we hear the name Gibson every day. We log onto Gibson Online to register for classes and access important information. We attend classes in Gibson Hall. We take this name for granted: it is simply a given. There is no active consideration of Randall Lee Gibson, the man behind the name.

Randall Lee Gibson was the first president of the Tulane Board of Administrators. He was also a plantation owner, a segregationist and a Confederate general.

Since this June’s shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, national conversations have focused on the inappropriate presence of Confederate monuments in public spaces. This has led to the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina government buildings. Recently, the University of Texas also voted to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis, following this trend. 

The South has begun to ask itself whether it is appropriate to display Confederate monuments, flags, memorials and statues, and New Orleans is no stranger to the debate.

Locally, New Orleans has been struggling with four monuments: the statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, a Canal Street monument associated with the Crescent City White League, the Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway and the statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard in City Park.

In a historically black city, sensationalizing the systematic racism that these figures fought for is inappropriate and disrespectful. 

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has recognized and spoken on this issue. He pushed for the City Council to vote on this issue, in light of the upcoming 300th birthday of the city, occurring in 2018.

On Aug. 13, the New Orleans City Commission voted to remove these landmarks, much to the dismay of Governor Bobby Jindal, who is trying to find a way to prevent the city from removing the statues. 

The conversation has pushed a nation to consider what it is comfortable looking at every day and whether habit justifies the existence of these residual monuments to the Lost Cause movement.

Despite the lack of genuine praise associated with monuments that mainly exist out of habit, what we display reflects who we are. We should be covering this city with our modern heroes. This city should be praising people who have helped us develop, not the people who tried to hold us back.

In order to avoid censoring New Orleans’ history, the City Commission has discussed moving the monuments to a park and creating a Civil War history walk. This idea has been well received. Using this information to educate puts a constructive spin on these monuments.

With New Orleans taking the initiative to remove its racist monuments, Tulane University must turn the looking glass onto itself. The naming of buildings and institutional elements should be scrutinized, and faculty, staff and student voices should be equally represented in the discussion of historic symbolism. Change can be uncomfortable, but the route to progress requires discomfort.