By Julio Acosta Silverio
“Why I Changed My Mind About Confederate Monuments” was a story written by a teacher named Kevin M. Levin who changed his perspective on the Confederate monuments. He changed his perspective because of a shooting that happen to churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter’s name was Dylann Roof, and he murdered nine Christian worshippers. The murderer was carrying around a Confederate battle flag in a picture. Though this incident happened, Levin still held a firm view on the monuments but not on the battle flag. He decided that the flag was bad because it empowered Confederate supporters to hurt people. Levin finally and ultimately changed his perspective about the monuments when he took a trip to Prague, the capital of Czech Republic. In Prague, he learned about the history of Stalin and Lenin, and how these two men left a “memory of oppression.” By the taking the monuments down this allowed the Czech people to “imagine a new direction for their nation.” Since the Czech people had the courage to take the monuments down, the citizens of the United States can as well.
Confederate monuments should be banned from public spaces, and neo-Confederates must not band together with white nationalists. Confederate-honoring groups such as Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) should not claim to celebrate their heritage with racist symbols; instead, they must be absolutely against oppression with no middle ground.
The monument debate includes different perspectives. Confederate monuments are going up and there are people behind them. John Culpepper established the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) in Chickamauga, Georgia. This community of people has been keeping the Confederate heritage current for more than a century. Many supporters recently came to witness the new monuments put up on the grounds of an antebellum plantation. They feel like these monuments remind them that their ancestors fought for their home and their land. “Regardless of what you think about the cause, they were fighting for their home, their land, their neighbors” (qtd. in Grinberg).
There are other groups that do not agree with the SCV. Heidi Beirich runs the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) intelligence program that denounces the SCV. She says “they have a twisted view of history where they don’t take slavery as seriously” (qtd in Grinberg). They have called out the SCV because they decline to take a position against racism, and they support the Confederate view of history. SCV supports monuments that they say support Confederate ideals, but which others feel endorse white supremacy.
The argument has been recently heightened by the violence in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, and the recent white supremacy march in Charlottesville, Virginia. This began as a rally between two different parties. One party fought to protect a Confederate monument of Gen. Robert E. Lee and the other fought to take it down. Although the SCV has condemned the white supremacy position, the involvement of white supremacists has put the organization in a no win solution.
Symbols of the Confederacy should be banned from public space. Statues are a reminder of past conflict and heritage. A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, John Culpepper insists: “It’s about remembering our ancestors, and the people who built this town” (qtd in Grinberg). This brings conflict because those towns were built on the backs of slaves. Glorifying his heritage is continuing racial oppression today. Having these Confederate symbols in public spaces has caused people to quarrel with each other when we should be getting along. We have to all work together and take the symbols down. The neo-Confederates need to realize that Germany doesn’t have monuments of Hitler, even though Hitler played a big role in the history of Germany. Likewise, Americans don’t need these symbols of figures who played a big negative role in American history, such as Robert E. Lee.
The neo-Confederates use Confederate symbols as an opportunity to glorify slavery. Heidi Beirich who leads the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center explains “they’ve historically been reluctant to be explicit about race issues” (qtd in Grinberg). What Beirich says is true because white nationalists are aligned with neo-Confederates who refuse to look at reality of the cause of the Civil War. It is known that the Civil War was caused by slavery, so the fact that SCV can’t address slavery makes their ideology hateful or at least insensitive.
When white nationalists and Confederate supporters come together, it is a dangerous situation because they have a lot in common. As CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg explains,
Ever since a white nationalist killed nine parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, momentum to remove Confederate symbols has grown throughout the south. Those calls accelerated nationwide in the wake of deadly violence this month at a white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Time passed and a riot broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia when white nationalists claimed to try to protect a statue of Robert E. Lee. It is beyond belief that these people want to keep this monument up even after that terrorist attack by Dylann Roof. That just goes to show that neo-Confederates need to be stopped, or else more attacks will take place. It seems to be clear that attacks empower the white nationalists because they are passionate for their symbols of oppression.
Ironically, historian Kevin M. Levin had a similar view of keeping the symbols as a sign of heritage like the SCV. His global perspective changed when he took a trip to Prague that changed his view for the better: “The removal of the monuments to Stalin and Lenin lifted the weight of the memory of oppression, allowing the Czech people to begin to imagine a new direction for their nation.” This convinced Levin that we don’t need these symbols in public spaces. The Son of Confederate Veterans would disagree because they have a provincial view of history. They have no interest in other narratives, but the view of the south during the Civil War.
Grinberg, Emanuella. “New Confederate Monuments Are Going Up And These Are The People Behind
Them.” CNN Wire. 19 August 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/us/new-confederate-monuments/index.html
Levin, Kevin. “Why I Changed My Mind About Confederate Monuments”. The Atlantic. 19 August 2017
Submitted for ENG 095 Basic Writing and Reading Strategies, Fall 2017. Assignment: Textual Analysis
Instructor: Kevin Lamkins
Instructor comments: What really struck me about Julio’s essay is his blunt condemnation of the Confederate symbols. He is not afraid to tell it like it is in this essay and uses examples from his sources to back up his perspective. He also makes nice use of Levin’s article as an attention-getting beginning and circles back to it for the ending.