Editorials

Commission should act, or quit

Protesters who want Confederate monuments removed from state grounds chant outside the building after the N.C. Historical Commission voted to delay action on a recommendation about removing statues from state sites during a meeting at the Archives and History Building in Raleigh, NC, on Sept. 22, 2017. Activist on both sides of the issue were present at the meeting.
Protesters who want Confederate monuments removed from state grounds chant outside the building after the N.C. Historical Commission voted to delay action on a recommendation about removing statues from state sites during a meeting at the Archives and History Building in Raleigh, NC, on Sept. 22, 2017. Activist on both sides of the issue were present at the meeting. cseward@newsobserver.com

Delaying action on whether Confederate monuments should be moved or taken town, the N.C. Historical Commission punted the issue until next spring. It was a timid act and an abandonment of duty. The commission is hoping that by that time, those who are pushing for the monuments to be moved or eliminated will no longer be pushing. The commission is out of touch and cited as one reason for delay a need to know whether it has the authority to offer answers on this question.

That would be funny – the group apparently doesn’t even know what its duties are – except that this issue is lingering far too long and causing further embarrassment to all North Carolinians. That’s all – not just the old-line white establishment that continues to talk about these monuments as if they had some kind of historic significance, which they do not.

A proposal was up to move some Confederate monuments from the state Capitol grounds to the Bentonville Battlefield historic site. That’s a lousy idea, and it represents a lousy compromise. Those who see that idea as some kind of solution are woefully out of touch with the coming generations in North Carolina, who are not nearly as interested in or as obsessed with preserving the symbols of the state’s Confederate heritage as are those in their 60s and 70s.

Confederate monuments are rightly in the news because of the violence associated with a demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., and a general exasperation, particularly – and understandably – in the African-American community, which sees the monuments as honoring a cause that defended slavery. Which, for all the reverence associated with Robert. E. Lee and the Lost Cause, it did. And once and for all, these monuments are not history and they are not art. Many were manufactured in the North and placed in Southern capitals as an act of defiance in the Jim Crow era.

One defender of the monuments said, “Slavery has nothing to do with it” and went on to cast the monuments as honoring men called to serve by North Carolina. First of all, slavery had everything to do with the rebellion against the United States government by southern states. Absent slavery, the war would not have happened. As to the individual gallantry southern troops displayed, it’s appropriate for families to revere the courage of their kinsmen – but they should understand why African-American citizens don’t like official displays of that reverence for those who defended those who enslaved and murdered their ancestors.

The Historical Commission members, if they cannot even take a stand, should resign. And legislative leaders who defend these monuments ought to be embarrassed. In time, all the monuments will be gone as the generations who grew up in integrated schools in a more diverse society take charge. Their only question as the monuments are removed will be, “What took us so long?”

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