There are fates worse than death: You could have a statue of yourself melted down by your enemies and turned into postmodern art. That’s the fate that awaits the famous Charlottesville Robert E. Lee statue. The Charlottesville City Council unanimously voted this week to give the removed statue to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. The black museum plans to melt it down and turn it into some grotesque art exhibit.
The center wants to use the statue as the centerpiece of its “Swords Into Plowshares” project. Andrea Douglas, the museum’s director, said:
The idea that a community could take the implements of war and turn them into plowshares or implements of social good is really what’s behind this. So, when we think about the project, it is about transformation, taking something that is symbolically traumatic and turning it into something that responds to the cultural values of Charlottesville.
Other community leaders shared similar sentiments. “This proposal best speaks to the values of equity and racial justice that the Human Rights Commission was created to advance and we urge you to select it,” Charlottesville Human Rights Commission chair (yes, that’s a thing in Charlottesville) Mary Bauer said in a council meeting. Other local activists said the Lee statue traumatized them and that they need to know it no longer exists in order to “heal.” These arguments won out.
It should be noted that Lee was not the only statue torn down in Charlottesville. City leaders also tore down a statue honoring Lewis and Clark and Stonewall Jackson. William Clark and Merriwether Lewis weren’t Confederates; they were famous explorers whose journey to the Pacific Ocean was once celebrated by all Americans. Now they’re just dead white men whose statue alongside Sacagawea reinforces white supremacy.
Fortunately for Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and Jackson, they will not be melted down by a black museum. Their respective fates are still to be determined, but city leaders want them completely removed from Charlottesville. The Lewis and Clark statue illustrates the obvious notion that they won’t stop at Confederate statues. It’s a war on America’s white heritage.
There are multiple myths deflated in this story besides “They only want to target Confederates!” Liberals and their conservative allies have constantly assured us that the proper place for these statues is in museums or historical parks. The destruction of the Lee statue shows that they lied about “proper place” notion. They want to erase them entirely from the physical world. To know that they exist somewhere is an affront that they cannot bear. They have to wipe them out completely and mold them into objects worthy of veneration in the Current Year.
The whole point of this measure is to humiliate whites, particularly white Southerners. While the victors of the Civil War treated the defeated Confederates with respect and admired their leaders as great men, the victors of the Cultural War treat the defeated Confederates with nothing but scorn and insist that great generals were losers simply because they lost the war. We need to admire real winners like George Floyd and Stacey Abrams instead.
Charlottesville hasn’t announced what the statues will be replaced with yet, but it’s already changed some of its landmarks to “reflect the times.” It renamed one of its streets Heather Heyer Way to honor the Charlottesville rally’s single fatality.
Other places, however, have already shown us what monuments will replace those of the dead white men. Richmond replaced Robert E. Lee and other Confederate heroes with an “Emancipation and Freedom” monument. The new structure depicts freed black slaves and is solely dedicated to black identity. Even though white people are responsible for black emancipation, it erases whites from the story. All the names honored are black. They include:
Mary Elizabeth Bowser, a spy for the Union in the Confederate White House;
William Harvey Carney, a former slave who fought in the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment and was the first African-American awarded the Medal of Honor;
Gabriel, who led one of the half-dozen most important insurrection plots in the history of North American slavery;
Dred Scott, an enslaved man whose unsuccessful lawsuit for his freedom led to the infamous Supreme Court decision that persons of African descent were not United States citizens;
Nat Turner, leader of the only successful slave revolt in Virginia’s history, shattering the myth of the contented slave;
Rosa Dixon Bowser, an educator, women’s rights activist, and social reformer who founded the first African American teachers’ association and co-founded the Virginia State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and the National Association of Colored Women;
John Mercer Langston, Virginia’s first African-American member of Congress and the first President of what is now Virginia State University;
John Mitchell, Jr., a community activist, the first African-American to run for Governor of Virginia and editor of the Richmond Planet newspaper, which covered local, national, and worldwide news, especially lynchings, segregation, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan;
Lucy Simms, a prominent educator who taught three generations of African-American children in the Harrisonburg area; and
Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, a Petersburg minister, civil rights activist, Chief of Staff to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
For those keeping track, the statue honors two black men whose main accomplishment was wanting to butcher white planters. One of them — Nat Turner — succeeded in his mission and slaughtered dozens of whites in 1831. Most of his victims were white women and children. This is a figure who Virginia officially now considers a freedom fighter and worthy of honor. Meanwhile, Lee is being melted down into an ugly art project.
The thing to keep in mind with every toppled statue is that we’re not supposed to honor any dead white men anymore. Confederates are merely at the top of the list. New York City recently removed a Thomas Jefferson statue because he was a racist. Last year, Boston tore down an Abraham Lincoln statue because the freed slave looked too submissive in the monument. A San Francisco school covered a George Washington mural because it offended its diverse student population. To repeat: They won’t stop at Confederates. The desire for erasure applies to all whites, unless they’re in a protected category such as Harvey Milk.
The fate of Robert E. Lee symbolizes the future of all of white America’s icons. It will all be razed and melted down to serve the interests of non-whites.
The one white pill in all this is that we can at least know that the system is giving us the symbols to represent ourselves. The system wants to be free of the men who made America, and claims that they are heroes exclusively to white Americans. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson do not represent multiracial America; they represent the historic American nation. Their removals testify to that, and offer the opportunity for us to appeal to a heritage now separated from the corrupt Empire.
We stand for the real America; the system does not.
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