Confederate statues have been the topic of a recent controversy. A riot broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia in an effort to preserve a Confederate Statue of General Robert E. Lee. Another statue of Lee was taken down in Dallas, Texas. Now the move is to change the schools and churches that have been named after Confederate men. Why and how this was started is unknown. That’s a clue. We have to ask, what sparked this and what the real intent behind it is.
What’s behind this battle? Is it white supremacy, racism, or slavery, like the media promotes. Instead of looking at it from what the media tells us or what we hear a few people sound off on (who those people are, we don’t even know), the focus should be to dig deeper and find what else it could be about.
Let’s start with the statues themselves. The two in question are of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The reason given for taking them down, some say, is its ties to racism and slavery. Is this the reason they were erected? In 1917 the Charlottesville statue of Robert E. Lee was commissioned. This was 52 years after the end of the Civil War. The Dallas statue was erected in 1936, which is 71 years after the war.
Why did they create statues of Robert E. Lee? Let’s look at him. Lee was born in Stratford Hall, Virginia. Before the war, he was a West Point Commandant and a military officer in the U.S. Army. At the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln, who thought very highly of Lee, offered him a command of the Union Army. Lee was extremely devoted to his home state. He said, “If Virginia stands by the old Union so will I.”
Later, Lee read the news that Virginia had joined the Confederacy. He told his wife, “Well, Mary, the question is settled,” and resigned the U.S. Army commission he held for 32 years. Robert E. Lee became the reluctant leader of the Confederate Army. If not for Lee’s loyalty to Virginia he would have been a general in the Union Army. When he turned down the commission, President Lincoln had a difficult time finding a replacement for Lee.
What’s really interesting is the parish in Virginia that was named to honor him; R.E. Lee Memorial Church has decided to change its name. The Episcopal church did not want to have his name even though Lee went against what he wanted to do, (fight for the union) so he could stay loyal to Virginia, (which decided to leave the Union). The church doesn’t even recognize the sacrifice Robert E. Lee made for them. Instead, they see him as creating racial division.
In Dallas, the statue was erected as a reminder of the sacrifice of the Texans who fought in the Civil War. Many people died in the war. At Gettysburg, the Union lost 23,000 men and the Confederate lost 28,000 men. A total of 51,000 Americans died during that battle alone. Texas sent 90,000 men to fight for the Confederacy and lost a staggering amount of lives. The statue was to honor and remember the men, American men, who fought. Yet the lives of these men are not recognized by those who want the statue removed.
The focus has been just about how these memorials represent slavery, though none of them were erected for that reason. Are racism and slavery really why memorials are being removed and names of places being changed. Or is there something else, some other motive.
In 2015 McGraw-Hill, publishers of educational books for schools came out with a textbook that referred to slaves as workers. Consequently, they were challenged on it. Why would they change the word slaves to workers? The term worker implies that the black people coming to America had a choice to come. It didn’t point out the fact that they were forced to come.
A worker also means being paid. Black people were not getting paid for their work. When asked why they changed the term McGraw-Hill stated, “our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves.” The textbook was changed for the following school year.
The battle about changing textbooks has been going on for some time. The reasoning is to play down slavery. Under the excuse to bring balance, the rationale is to teach our children that the Civil War was because of sectionalism and state’s rights. Though true, it wipes away a major point, the differences between the free and slave states over the national government prohibiting slavery in new territories. The thinking is to diminish the issue of slavery to be of lesser importance.
Is there a move to wipe out slavery from our history? We have to ask what the real underlying factor is here. It is difficult to even find where any of these actions started. We don’t know who or what is pulling the strings. All we know is that something is stirring a pot, provoking racial tension, and the media is on board because it makes great news.
What is the real reason behind wanting the monuments taken down? Some people wanting them taken down don’t even know who Robert E. Lee was. Right now when you google Civil War you get the movie, “Captain America: Civil War.” Are we erasing the American Civil War altogether!
And where does it stop? Should we take down the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Memorial for some reason? Maybe we should close all the Japanese restaurants in America because their ancestors bombed Pearl Harbor and caused so many American deaths.
As far as the monuments about the Civil War, they are not about race or slavery. That, unfortunately, was part of our history and we need to remember it and learn from our mistake. The monuments are about the men who fought and died for their country; no matter what side they were on. We lost 620,000 American men, black and white, in the Civil War, compared to 407,300 American men killed in World War II. May we never forget what this war cost us.