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Letter – Courthouse statue should be removed

To The Editor:

Growing up in Baltimore studying Black History in high school, and attending a historically Black college and university, means I studied the “Lost Cause” ideology at length.

For those who aren’t familiar with this term, allow me to explain it briefly. Prior to the Civil War, the 11 states that ceded from the Union repeatedly declared that they were doing so “to preserve the institution of slavery.”

However, only when the Confederacy was defeated, were those decries replaced by a narrative stating the war was fought over states’ rights, state sovereignty, the rural agrarian way of life, and the like. It helped them to ignore an inconvenient truth. That they lost and that America would be a better place because of it.

Those who whole-heartedly believed the latter ideal became known as “Lost Causers.” As time passed, the narrative continues to be told in a way that memorializes and praises those prominent members of the Confederate States of America such as Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. Those who chose to remember Davis and his “lost cause” pushed for the creation of memorials.

The Confederate statues were erected not only during the Reconstruction Era after the war, but also during periods of civil rights tension in the 20th Century. For this reason, Confederate monuments have always been closely associated with other symbols of “white supremacy.”

The monument here in the Courthouse Square, like most of the monuments, was constructed between 1890 and 1920. It was relocated to its current space in 1968. As many can remember, this was a time marred by extreme racial prejudice and violence. White citizens in Lunenburg County were fueled by a “lost cause” revisionist history of the Civil War; thus institutionalizing white supremacy via Jim Crow laws and other acts of racial terror. As monuments went up, so did the body count for black men, women, and children who were humiliated, mutilated, and lynched at the amusement and behest of the caucasian race.

Every time I visit the courthouse or drive past Lunenburg Courthouse Square, I am reminded that these monuments are not about “heritage,’’ but hate. These monuments dredge up history lessons of a time when Americans regarded black people as property, equal in value to livestock. These monuments serve one primary purpose – to honor figures of the past who upheld slavery. They desired Black people to forever be in chains, toiling day in and day out on the plantations to line the pockets of white southerners.

The creation of Confederate statues, the resurgence of the Confederate flags, and the naming of Army installations worked in tandem with the growth of the Ku Klux Klan in Lunenburg as well as other locales. Back then, they sent a clear message that Black people would never be accepted as full citizens of the United States. Now, they remind all who walk in their shadows we haven’t really come that far. As a Black woman in Lunenburg County, I see it as a reminder that Blacks need to “stay in their place.”

Leaders have suggested removing these monuments will somehow “erase history” or “bring on more division within the county.” That claim may make for good rhetoric, but it obscures one crucial fact: Confederate monuments, as well as American history, have already done that.

Those that defend this logic fail to acknowledge that Confederate monuments and symbols exist to intimidate Black Americans and uphold a racist, often one-sided version of history. Honoring a revisionist history is not only repugnant, but it also undercuts the argument of those who now claim they only want to preserve history.

Removing this Confederate monument does not require any “whitewashing” of history.  No one claims to erase the darker, more uncomfortable lessons of Southern history. I just see no reason to honor or worship the error in the Confederacy’s cause.

What should happen to this monument once it is removed? Here are a few ideas:

  • Donate it to the Museum of the Confederacy or the American Civil War Museum where it can be appreciated
  • Ship it somewhere that will provide an accurate interpretation of history in the context of the “Lost Cause ideology, the Jim Crow era, white supremacy, and systematic racism
  • Place it one of the local cemeteries where Confederate soldiers are buried.

Removing this statue from standing proudly in our Courthouse Square will honor patriots who fought for their country and not against it. Your vote will convey the willingness to construct and promote a multi- ethnic society. Racial equality, social justice, and a more educated community are the only goals here.

There is no path to a peaceful and prosperous county without challenging and rejecting this monument’s presence in the courthouse square.

Donna Dagner

Victoria