The Atlantic

Take the Statues Down

A multi-ethnic democracy requires grappling honestly with the past—and recognizing the symbols of the Confederacy for what they are.
Source: Joshua Roberts / Reuters

On Saturday in Charlottesville, a rally in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee turned into a reenactment of the cause he led—white supremacists marching behind the Confederate battle flag, their opponents left injured or dead on the ground.

But like Lee’s soldiers, today’s defenders of white supremacy are fighting for a losing cause, a defeat that their violence will only serve to make deeper and more lasting than it otherwise would have been. Across the United States, the statues are starting to topple, the streets renamed, the memorials removed. These visible inscriptions of white supremacy into the American landscape are being erased.

In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently hauled down three public monuments to the Confederacy and to white supremacy. “These statues were a part of … terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city,” he . In to move statues of two Confederate leaders from the courthouse lawn to a public park. This was the rising tide of change that the Charlottesville rally hoped to stem.

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