OUR POSITION: It’s time for America to take down monuments to a troubled time in our history and not feel guilty about it.
Wiping out history is not normally something we would be in favor of. As a matter of fact, we once struggled with the idea of taking down all those statues of Confederate soldiers and plaques pointing out historic events and memorializing leaders of the South’s attempt to secede from the union in the 1860s. We considered that it’s history and history should not be forgotten — whether it is good or bad.
We can no longer defend that idea. While the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis did wake much of America up to bigotry and racism, it was more than that shocking incident that revitalized the movement to take down memorials to the Confederacy.
Why should we honor men and women who took up arms against their country? Why should we allow statues of the leaders of a violent insurrection against the United States? And how can we honor the fight to keep people enslaved on American soil?
Sure, there are those who argue the Civil War was not about slavery. The secession documents say it was.
Or, they can debate what we alluded to earlier, that history cannot be forgotten or erased because it’s messy.
To that we would offer the possibility of relocating the statues and plaques in a museum. To never repeat history, people must know our history. That is why museums are needed. To bury history and tear down everything that teaches history would be wrong.
But we can no longer agree that those statues and reminders should be in public view, in parks and even in front of Florida’s capitol.
Yes, in 1923, a statue was erected on the lawn in front of our capitol in Tallahassee. It is there to recognize “the heroic patriotism of the men of Leon County who perished in the Civil War of 1861-1865.”
One of the battles listed on that memorial took place in Olustee. According to writer Kevin Cate, that was one of the Civil War’s most savage massacres. Historical records indicate that Confederate soldiers didn’t pursue fleeing Union troops but hung back to shoot blacks — only the racist term used was the normal vulgarity that identified blacks then and, sadly, sometimes even today.
Mayor Lenny Curry in Jacksonville has led the movement, in Florida at least, to cleanse the city of memorials to the Confederacy. When the streets were quiet one early morning last week he had a statue, that sat on a 62-foot pedestal in Hemming Park for 122 years, removed. It was a bronze of a Confederate soldier.
Curry has a list of 11 other monuments and historical markers that are coming down in the “next few weeks.”
Floyd’s death in Minneapolis — and two other killings of black people in recent weeks — have rekindled old wounds and calls for addressing America’s deep-seeded racism.
NASCAR’s bold move to ban Confederate flags from its races is proof how far this movement is going.
We call on Gov. Ron DeSantis to take down the statue on capitol grounds. And we call on mayors and councils and commissions throughout Florida to take down reminders of a sad, bloody era in America’s history.