Some may say it began with Charlottesville. Or with Baltimore. Or possibly New Orleans, Gainesville or Durham.
The removal of Confederate statues and monuments from public spaces is racking our moral psyche as a nation.
In Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, the nation watched as white supremacists chanted racist epithets and carried Confederate flags and tiki torches proudly, evoking distinct images of fervent displays of racism during the civil rights era.
Public spaces are shared spaces. Shared spaces are to represent what is best among all of us, what unites us, what brings a community and a nation of people together.
It is true that we ought not forget our troubled history concerning slavery and the various forms of institutional racism that have lived on as a result of slavery.
However, statues glorifying an individual who represents oppression do not represent the best characteristics we claim as Americans.
Where we choose to direct our money and efforts helps tell the story of who we are and who holds power.
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It is commonly argued and has been further framed by President Trump that removal of Confederate statues “erases” history and, therefore, that those who defend them simply want to preserve history.
We typically don’t commemorate the oppressors of history in public spaces. Instead, we do it in museums, if we do at all.
History is not primarily taught through the medium of statues in parks. It happens through interacting with books and within classrooms and is fueled by sheer curiosity.
Adolf Hitler is an infamous name. Virtually everyone understands who the man was at least at a basic level - understanding he was a Nazi fueled by hatred and pseudoscience.
To my knowledge, there are no statues of Hitler funded by federal, state or local governments in America.
I certainly know that I did not learn of Hitler and his atrocities by visiting monuments of him.
Honestly, the most intimate and informative experiences I have had concerning Hitler were in the Smithsonian Holocaust Museum where I did not see any tall metal statues of him.
The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report that chronicles the establishment of the roughly 1,000 Confederate monuments.
It would be reasonable to assume that if these monuments were built with the intention of commemorating the history behind these men and events, they would have been built during and after the end of the Civil War.
There are two notable spikes in the building of confederate monuments: the Jim Crow era and the civil rights movement. The uniting theme between these two time periods were when white Southerners were actively working to disenfranchise black Southerners.
These monuments were built to remind the public who held the political, financial and societal power.
They were an attempt to remain on top and dominant — much like white supremacy groups are today and were in Charlottesville.
So, I agree we need to remember this dark, brutal history in the aim of learning from it, lessening the inevitable consequences and becoming better from it.
Let’s start doing it in a fair and honest way, starting by moving Confederate monuments and statues to museums where they belong: in our past.
Emily Hale is a contributing columnist at The Auburn Plainsman. The views expressed in columns do not reflect the opinion of The Plainsman.
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