The history of the Civil War and the Confederacy are exactly that—history. America has a complex relationship with its history. Certain parts of it, we revere and treat as legend. Other parts, the grim and ugly ones, we shirk away from and have a harder time telling the truth about. The wonderful thing about history is that it provides us an opportunity to look critically at the past and move forward. The debate about Confederate monuments is certainly about history. But we have to be honest about whether or not this particular part of history is the one we want to hold in high regard. Cities across the country are deciding to remove their Confederate monuments—signaling that the time has come to move on from a period in time that represents slavery, racism and the division of the country. And in Baltimore, early on Wednesday morning, the city took a step forward when its Confederate statues were from around the city.
Statues dedicated to Confederate heroes were swiftly removed across the city in the small hours of Wednesday morning, just days after violence broke out over the removal of a similar monument in neighboring Virginia.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Catherine Pugh said that given the current political climate, it was important to move “quickly and quietly” as a matter of public safety.
“I thought that there’s enough grandstanding, enough speeches being made,” she said. “Get it done.”
Currently, Baltimore is a predominately black city. This means that for years its black residents were forced to see symbols that are a reminder of the systematic oppression of black people. Moreover, these statues were erected long after the Civil War was over—during the Jim Crow era, another reminder of how black people were (and still are) treated as less than in our society. It’s worth asking why these statues were put up when they were and what the intended message was behind them. Such conversations about the preservation of history need to be had in context. Part of this context includes acknowledging that these monuments which honor individuals who fought to keep blacks enslaved were put up to send a message that folks were, in fact, okay with slavery and racism.